SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), working jointly with the Caribbean Border Corridor Strike Force, dismantled Tuesday a drug trafficking organization allegedly responsible for the importation of multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine into Puerto Rico and the transportation of drug money between Puerto Rico, Culebra and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
On March 27, a federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment charging David Pina-Lico, aka El Negro; Alexis Acosta-Monell, aka Pulpo; Johnathan Saldaña-Garcia; Victor Cruz-Resto, aka Pulga, Charlie Martinez-Pimentel, aka Pajarito; Noel Rodriguez-Lopez, aka Gordo; and Israel Adorno-Perez, aka Rafita, with participating in a conspiracy to possess and import controlled substances, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and money laundering.
The investigation leading to the indictment and subsequent arrests uncovered that members of this organization took orders from individuals in Puerto Rico interested in purchasing kilogram quantities of cocaine in St. Thomas. The organization allegedly would receive money in exchange for narcotics from buyers in Puerto Rico and later coordinate the delivery of money to the sellers in St. Thomas. Once the money arrived to St. Thomas, the organization would arrange for the smuggling of the narcotics into Puerto Rico. The organization coordinated the movement of drugs and money in phases. Members of the organization moved the money first from the east coast of Puerto Rico to Culebra via motor vessels or ferry. Once the money arrived in Culebra, they transported it to St. Thomas. The drugs were smuggled into Puerto Rico using the same system, from St. Thomas to Culebra, and then to Puerto Rico.
The indictment includes a forfeiture allegation for the proceeds obtained as a result of the organization's alleged illegal activities, the motor vessels that were used during the smuggling operations, and a vehicle.
"These arrests are proof that HSI remains vigilant and that, along with our partners in the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force, we will continue using our robust investigative authorities to identify, investigate and apprehend those involved in drug trafficking," said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "HSI and our task force partners will not tolerate the importation of illegal drugs into the United States through Puerto Rico."
If found guilty, the defendants face a sentence of up to life in prison for the narcotics violations and up to 20 years for the money laundering violations.
The task force is an initiative of the U.S. Attorney's Office created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. The task force is part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) that investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics using the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is composed of HSI, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Coast Guard, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico Police Department's (PRPD) Joint Forces for Rapid Action.