SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), officers and special agents assigned to the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force arrested six Dominican Republic nationals on drug trafficking charges earlier this week. The individuals tried to introduce 330 kilograms and one kilogram of heroin with an estimated street value of $8 million into the United States.
"Through these arrests and seizures we are sending a clear message Puerto Rico will not be a safe haven for criminals looking to ship drugs into Puerto Rico and the United States," said Angel Melendez, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "ICE and its federal and local partners are committed to working together to stop the flow of illegal narcotics into Puerto Rico."
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers onboard a marine surveillance vessel detected the six men aboard a suspicious 25-foot unmarked fiberglass boat transiting illegally towards Puerto Rico. Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received notification from a CBP officer of the ongoing situation and proceeded to divert the Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus to interdict the suspect vessel.
The Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus arrived on scene, interdicted the suspect vessel and detained Jairo Torres-Balbuena, 29; José Manuel Rodríguez, 30; Anheli Regalado, 25; Berner Balbuena-Perreaux, 38; Jorge King, 52; and Juan Polanco-Rodríguez, 35; following the discovery of 15 bales of suspected contraband which later tested positive for cocaine and heroin during a field test.
Coast Guard personnel transferred custody of the six Dominicans, the suspect vessel, and the seized contraband to awaiting HSI special agents in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.
Those arrested were transferred to the Guaynabo, Puerto Rico Metropolitan Detention Center awaiting the outcome of their case. They had their initial hearing before US Magistrate Judge Bruce McGiverin June 6 and remain detained.
The strike force is an initiative of the U.S. Attorney's Office created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. It is part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force 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 U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, Coast Guard, CBP and Puerto Rico Police Department's Joint Forces for Rapid Action.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected weapons and narcotics smuggling and related information by calling at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. For more information, visit www.ice.gov.