WASHINGTON – Eighty-nine law enforcement officers and 44 others in Puerto Rico have been charged in 26 indictments unsealed today and returned by a grand jury in San Juan, Puerto Rico, during the month of September 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez of the District of Puerto Rico announced today.
The defendants face charges ranging from conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, attempt to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, and use of a firearm during the commission of a drug trafficking offense. The offenses charged cover a period from in or about July 26, 2008 until Sept. 21, 2010.
The arrests today are the result of Operation Guard Shack, the largest police corruption investigation in the history of the FBI. Close to 750 FBI agents were flown in to Puerto Rico from across the country to assist in the arrests early this morning. Currently 129 individuals are in custody and four subjects remain at-large.
“The Justice Department’s commitment to rooting out and eradicating alleged corruption in our law enforcement ranks has never been stronger,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “This department has one message for anyone willing to abuse the public trust for personal gain: you will be caught, you will be stopped and you will be punished.”
The indictments unsealed today are the result of 125 undercover drug transactions conducted by the FBI in several locations in Puerto Rico, from July 2008 until September 2010. The defendants’ participation in the drug transactions consisted of providing armed protection to a drug dealer during the sale of multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine. In exchange for their security services during the undercover drug transactions, the defendants, a majority of whom are law enforcement officers, received payments ranging from $500 to $4,500 per transaction.
The law enforcement officers indicted today are from the following agencies: 60 defendants from the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD); 16 defendants from various municipal police departments; and 12 officers from the Puerto Rico Corrections Department. The remaining defendants include: three Puerto Rico National Guard soldiers; two U.S. Army officers; eight former law enforcement officers ; one administrative examiner in child support matters; one employee from the Social Security Administration; and 30 civilians.
“These indictments demonstrate the commitment of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico to eradicate corruption in our law enforcement ranks. We cannot help but be appalled at the criminal conduct charged today against those who have sworn to serve and protect the citizens of Puerto Rico. The people of Puerto Rico deserve and expect better, and today we send a clear message. We will continue working side by side with the many honest members of Puerto Rico’s law enforcement agencies in our fight against drug trafficking, violent crime and corruption in the island,” said U.S. Attorney Rodríguez-Vélez.
“Public corruption does not just strike at the heart of good government. It also jeopardizes the security of our communities and our nation,” said FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry, Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch. “It erodes public confidence and undermines the strength of our democracy. The FBI is fully committed to pursuing allegations of public corruption and we will work closely with the Department of Justice to bring charges when necessary.”
The 61 indicted defendants from the Puerto Rico Police Department are: Omar Pérez Prado; Lt. Ángel Torres Figueroa; Carlos Fontanez Mercado, aka “Machazo;” Yacira Vélez Milian; Heriberto Cruz Vargas aka “Yopi;” Giovanni Cubertier Morales; Armando Valle Vicenty; Melvin Acevedo Hernández; Jeff Marrero Malpica; José Fuentes-Fuentes; Nelson Álvarez Mendoza; Obed Acevedo Ranero; Joel Hernández Hernández; David González Pérez; Israel Rullan Santiago; Eusebio Hernández Nieves; Xavier Álvarez Pérez; Ángel Acevedo Pérez, Ángel Rivera Ortiz, aka “Kento;” Samuel Acevedo Rivera; Pedro A. Morales Cintrón; Michael Forestier Figueroa; Juan Cruz Ramos, aka “Tito K9;” Jorge Rosado García; José R. Sánchez Quiñones; Rafael Figueroa Quiñones; Mayra Jiménez Pacheco; Juan D. Santiago Rosado; Rolando Nieves Valentin; Brenda Acosta Andújar; Javier A. Díaz Castro; Arnold E. Benítez Rivera; Rafael Rodríguez Valentin; Ramón Benítez Falcón; Carlos M. Méndez Pérez; Juan Hernández Vega; Daviel Salinas Acevedo; Pedro Ayala Rivera; Yamil M. Navedo Ramírez; Ivan Santiago-Cruz; Daniel E. Ocasio Figueroa; Rafael Bautista Santiago; Isaías Reyes Arroyo; Sgt. Luis E. Pérez Ortiz; Hector Hernández Aguilar; Karla M. Colón Bracero; Jim Santana Ramírez; Jayson Acevedo; José L. Salva Negrón; Milton L. Martínez Matos; Luis A. González Torres; Miguel Santiago Cordero; Alberto De La Rosa Reyes; José B. Vargas Torres; Hector López Terrón; Johanna Caraballo López; Silverio Vera Monroy; Juan Jusino Ramos; Raúl Vega Sosa; Jonathan Ortiz Muñiz; and Hector Olivero Alicea. Ricardo Vázquez (U.S. Army Recruiter); Rafael Ureña Rivera, aka “Indio (former PRPD);” and William Rivera García (former municipal officer).
The16 indicted defendants who are municipal police officers are:Andy Alejandrino Sánchez; Arcadio Hernández-Soto; Raquel Delgado Marrero; Ángel L. Rivera Claudio; Joel Omar Aldarondo-Montalvo; Neftali Valentin-Fred; José O. Maldonado García; Luis Joel Avilés Rullan; Mark Anthony Ortiz; Luis Román Herrera; Gabriel Lozada Torres; Onel Saavedra González; Rose M. Serrano Vargas; Wilfredo González Lagares; Francisco J. Riesta Natal; and Jose Pérez Pérez.
The 12 indicted defendants who are officers in the Puerto Rico Corrections Department are:Christian Díaz Maldonado; Olvin García Huertas; José L. Román Méndez; Ruben Maldonado Torres; Radamés Cortez Ozoa; Carlos M. Rosado López; Omar Torres Ruperto; Carlos M. Linares Vega; Bernis González Miranda; José R. Bermúdez Quiñones; Joel Díaz Nieves; and Bernardo Cruz Trujillo.
The remaining 44defendants are: Carlos Figueroa Cruz; Anthony Cruz; Miguel Sánchez Román (U.S. Army, former San Juan Municipal); Rodolfo E. Torres Negrón; Melquiades Álvarez Mendoza; Juan Carlos González Ortiz; Nelmic De La Cruz Raposo; Jesús LNU; Axel González Terron; Juan Cruz Tapia (Social Security Office); Edgar Rafael Rivera De Jesús (retired PRPD); Idanis García Morales (child support examiner); Christian Sotomayor Filomeno; Omar Cajigas; Abimael Hernández Rivera; Pedro González-Cruz; Rubin A. Maisonet De Jesús;Wayne Cedeño Amador; Josué Ramírez González; Oscar E. Ramos Rodríguez; Antonio L. Román Reyes; Yancy Toro Espiet; Alex O. Cordero Cortez, aka “Omar De La Cruz;” Luis Vélez-Concepción; Billy Hernández; Edward Quiñones (former PRPD); Christian A. Núñez-Reverón, aka “Kelvin Nuñez,” Roberto Molina (retired PRPD); Francisco Manzano López (former PRPD); Abraham Sánchez (National Guard); Hector Hernández-Aldarondo; Rafael E. Pérez Rivera; Sgt. Abraham González Sánchez (National Guard); Wendell Rivera Ruperto, aka “Arsenio Rivera,” (former PR Department of Corrections); David Maldonado (National Guard); Juan C. Ramos-Vargas, aka “Joseph Avilés;” Frederick Santos Ortiz, aka “Roberto Ortega;” Yoana Sierra Padilla (former PRPD); Julio Gómez-Lloréns; Ricardo Amaro-Santiago; Eliezer Pagán Medina; and Sgt.
If convicted the defendants are facing sentences ranging from 10 years, up to life in prison.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Courtney Coker and Jacqueline Novas. The case is being investigated by the FBI San Juan Field Office.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.
Operation Guard Shack
Historic Takedown in Puerto Rico
|A special agent tracks the progress of the operation. Gallery: Operation Guard Shack|
Early this morning the FBI launched a massive public corruption takedown in San Juan, Puerto Rico, as our agents fanned out across the island to begin arresting 133 subjects—the majority of them police officers.
In what is likely the largest police corruption case in the FBI’s history, nearly 1,000 Bureau personnel from 50 of our 56 field offices were in San Juan for the takedown.
By late morning, as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney for Puerto Rico Rosa Rodriguez-Velez, and FBI officials were announcing the operation at a press conference in Washington, members of our Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) and SWAT operators had already arrested 129 subjects in a seamless and successful operation.
|The colors on a map of Puerto Rico represent how cases were divided into tactical operations.|
Those charged with drug trafficking crimes and the use of a firearm in the commission of those crimes include 61 officers from the Puerto Rico Police Department, 16 officers from other municipal police departments, a dozen Puerto Rico Department of Corrections officers, members of the National Guard, and two U.S. Army soldiers. They all face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
“The actions of these individuals proved they were not worthy of the title of public servant,” said Luis Fraticelli, special agent in charge of our San Juan office. “They violated the public’s trust by using their authority for personal gain.”
The case, dubbed Operation Guard Shack, began more than two years ago, when then-FBI Special Agent Jose Figueroa Sancha began an investigation into corrupt San Juan police officers.
One of our undercover agents posing as a dealer selling multiple kilos of cocaine put the word out that he needed security during drug deals. Many of those who responded were cops. They actively took part in the transactions by carrying weapons and patting down the drug buyers—who were actually FBI informants. For their protection efforts, the cops were paid between $500 and $4,000 for each drug deal. In all, more than $500,000 was paid in protection money.
|FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry
discusses the operation with reporters at a
press conference in Washington, D.C.
Figueroa Sancha—now chief of the Puerto Rico Police Department—knew of the continuing investigation and said from the FBI command post this morning, “All the officers arrested during today’s takedown did not honor or value the significance of working for the Puerto Rico Police Department.”
The operation began at 3 a.m., when 65 tactical teams hit the streets. But the takedown represented the work of more than just HRT and SWAT. On hand were a range of Bureau personnel—crisis negotiators, evidence response team members, canines and their handlers, and some 80 medical personnel from first responders and nurses to a trauma surgeon and a veterinarian.
And none of those people or their equipment—including armored Humvees, helicopters, and 250 rental cars—would have been in place if not for the logistical experts who worked around the clock in the days leading up to the takedown.
“A lot of planning went into this,” Fraticelli said, “and a lot of very capable people ‘what if’d’ the operation in every conceivable way.”
“This case sends a powerful message,” said Special Agent Alex Zappe, who worked the investigation from the beginning. “Corruption among our public officials—especially police officers—cannot be tolerated.”
– Press release