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Transnational Gangs

ATF, ICE, PRPD, San Juan Municipal Police nab 14 on drugs and arms trafficking charges

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Fourteen members of a drug trafficking organization that operated from the Nuestra Señora de Covadonga public housing project in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, were arrested on Friday. The following agencies cooperated jointly to make the arrests: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Puerto Rico Police Department; and the San Juan Municipal Police.

Since November 2007, this violent drug trafficking organization was led by co-defendant Ismael Rosa-Pagán, aka Pito Pelu. Rosa-Pagán also enforced, sold, and owned a drug point where cocaine was sold. Before November 2007, Jesús Iglesias-Viera, aka Beethoven, was the leader of the organization. Iglesias-Viera assumed leadership after the deaths of Arturo Rojas de La Cruz, aka Tamarindo and José R. Torres-Rivera, aka Nandito, in June 2007. On Nov. 15, 2007, Iglesias-Viera and other co-defendants delegated the leadership of the drug trafficking organization in Covadonga to Rosa-Pagán.

This drug trafficking organization operated for almost two years, and continued with the same modus operandi from the previous leaders. Some organization members played different roles within the organization such as: leaders, enforcers, runners, sellers, look-outs, drug processors and facilitators.

During this conspiracy, the organization rented drug points to other organization members. Most co-conspirators routinely possessed, carried, brandished and used firearms at all hours of the day to protect themselves and the drug trafficking organization. They stored weapons in various apartments in Covadonga, and parked cars in parking spaces within the housing project to stash controlled substances, paraphernalia and weapons. As part of the intimidation, the organization members controlled access to Covadonga.

The penalties for the offense alleged in count one of the indictment is a minimum term of 10 years and up to life in prison, followed by a term of supervised release of up to five years, and fines up to $4 million.

Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.