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  1. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
  2. News Room
  3. 60 Members of Violent Gang Charged With Drug Trafficking, Firearms Violations in Puerto Rico

60 Members of Violent Gang Charged With Drug Trafficking, Firearms Violations in Puerto Rico

Release Date: May 24, 2024

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — On May 22, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment charging 60 gang members from the municipality of Ponce with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, possession and distribution of controlled substances, and firearms violations, announced U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico W. Stephen Muldrow.

This investigation was led by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Puerto Rico Police Bureau’s Ponce Strike Force, in collaboration with the Puerto Rico National Guard Counterdrug Program, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations, the U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Unit, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Puerto Rico Department of Treasury.

“Guns, violence, drugs and murders are the day-to-day of this organization,” said HSI San Juan Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Gonzalez Ramos. “Ponce residents deserve peace, and our children deserve to play in a street free of drugs. HSI is committed to our community, and we will not tolerate this violent behavior on our island.”

The indictment alleges that from 2016, the drug trafficking organization distributed crack, heroin, cocaine, marijuana and fentanyl within 1,000 feet of the Aristides Chavier Arevalo, Ernesto Ramos Antonini, Dr. Manuel de la Pila, Ponce Housing and Hogares de Portugues public housing projects and other areas in and nearby the municipality of Ponce, all for significant financial gain and profit. The object of the conspiracy was the large-scale distribution of controlled substances and to distribute the same in street quantity amounts at their drug distribution points. Some of these narcotics would be sent illegally by mail to the continental United States using the U.S. Postal Service.

The investigation revealed that during the conspiracy, the defendants and their co-conspirators would use force and violence, including murder and intimidation, against rival drug trafficking organizations and to discipline members of their own organization. Members of the organization would go to “war” with rival gangs, which included retaliatory shooting incidents that, at times, resulted in injuries and death.

The defendants acted in different roles to further the conspiracy’s goals, including as leaders, owners, enforcers, runners, sellers and facilitators. The members of the gang used force, violence and intimidation to maintain control of the areas where they operated. Twenty defendants are facing one charge of possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The defendants charged in the indictment are:

  • Armando L. Alicea-Santiago aka La Mami/Nanito
  • Jose A. Custodio-Colon aka Gilligan/El Viejo
  • Christopher Roman-Medina aka Keke
  • Armando Ortiz-Melendez aka Yokain
  • Nestor Murray-Valentino aka Valentino
  • Nicky Cosme-Rivera aka Mellao
  • Hector Pacheco-Figueras aka La H
  • Joshua Almodovar aka Mamaito
  • Orlando Coimbre-Echevarría aka Orlandito
  • Giovanni Vargas-Maldonado aka Jova/La J
  • Jon Alvarado-Hernandez aka Jacob
  • Raymond Torres-Zayas aka Macho
  • Eduardo Aponte Torres aka Edu/Menor/Bubu
  • Luis Laboy-Nadal aka Marlon/Mailon
  • Juan Limardo-Melendez aka Jonny
  • Jose Mendez-Morales aka Hugo Boss/Gordo
  • Bryant Santiago-Ramirez aka Bryant
  • Edgargo Caraballo-Echevarria aka La J
  • Jomar Irrizarry-Sarriera
  • Norberto Martinez-Castro aka Berto/Bertito/Enano
  • Eduardo Negron-Perez aka Bebo
  • Adam Maldonado-Santuche
  • Jose Vazquez-Vargas aka Gordo Janet
  • Kelvin Almodovar-Toro aka Calvo
  • Jaime Padilla-Gomez aka Jimito
  • Rafael Alers-Ortiz aka Memin
  • Jose A. Custodio-Flores aka Gele
  • Jai Lopez-Diaz aka Chai
  • Luis J. Alvarado-De La Cruz aka Joel
  • Joshua Rodriguez-Cortez aka Medusa/Versace
  • Vilma J. Vazquez-Vargas aka Janet
  • Jay Pages-Pacheco
  • Hector J. Orengo-Torres aka Javi
  • Ramon Echevarria-Caraballo aka Arabe
  • Jose Rodriguez-Casiano aka Jon Z
  • William Gonzalez-Maldonado aka Casqui
  • Miguel Ortiz-Gonzalez aka Saca Mostro
  • Jonathan Vazquez-Bota aka Mama Deo/Jona
  • Wilson Berrios-Flores aka Panda
  • Neftaly Rivera-Santiago aka Taly
  • Miguel Alexander-Baez aka Yoyo
  • Kevin Cosme-Rivera
  • Josue Perez-Torres aka Aguja
  • Angel Santana-Pacheco aka Goldo
  • William Ramos-Rivera aka Willy
  • Alexis Aponte-Negron
  • Coral Gonzalez-Bacenet
  • Anthony Limardo-Mercado aka Mariachi
  • Arturo De Lahongrais-Emmanuelli
  • Silverio Yoguez-Mercado aka Gringo
  • Jovelyn Marquez-Ruiz aka La Flaca
  • Manuel Alicea-Alicea aka Alicea
  • Wanda Vargas-Alvarez
  • Jaime Mendez-Ortiz aka Jimmy
  • Angel Mercado-Acabeo aka Cano/Canito
  • Ilia Martínez-Pagan aka Coral/Charlot
  • Jayson Camacho-Rodriguez
  • Maria Mercado-Crespo aka Luly
  • Jadira Baez-Flores
  • Jose Cambrelen-Pabon aka Buba

“Too many lives have been lost because of drug trafficking and the violence it causes. This indictment demonstrates our shared commitment to protect our communities,” said Muldrow. “This is the third multi-defendant gang takedown this month and underscores the unyielding resolve of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Puerto Rico to bring violent offenders to justice.”

“Today marks a pivotal moment in our ongoing efforts to dismantle violent drug trafficking organizations that threaten the safety and well-being of our communities,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Denise Foster. “The arrest of approximately 60 individuals is a testament to the unwavering dedication and collaboration of federal and local law enforcement agencies. This operation not only disrupts a major criminal network, but also underscores our commitment to bringing justice and safety to the people of Ponce. We will continue to leverage our combined resources and expertise to combat drug trafficking and ensure the security of all our citizens.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chief of the Gang Section Alberto Lopez-Rocafort; Assistant U.S. Attorney and Deputy Chief of the Gang Section Teresa Zapata-Valladares; Assistant U.S. Attorneys R. Vance Eaton and Hector Siaca Flores are in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted on the drug charges, the defendants each face a minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison. If convicted of both the drug and firearms charges, the defendants each face a minimum sentence of 15 years and up to life in prison. All defendants are facing a narcotics forfeiture allegation of $123,662,000.

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multiagency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Last Updated: 05/31/2024
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