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November 8, 2023San Juan, PR, United StatesNarcotics

3 Port of San Juan employees arrested for narcotics violations

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment charging Carlos Alberto Hernandez-Laguer aka Brea, Luis Roberto De Leon-Sanchez aka Coco, and Misael Ruiz-Valentin aka Misa, with four counts of conspiracy to import cocaine, importation of cocaine, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, and possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

On Nov. 6, 2023, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Juan’s Seaport-Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) and partner agencies arrested three longshoremen working at the Port of San Juan for their involvement in facilitating the transportation of narcotics between the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the continental United States.

According to court documents, on or about June 7, 2022, the defendants intentionally conspired and agreed to possess, import and distribute cocaine into the United States from the Dominican Republic. The HSI San Juan Seaport-BEST investigation revealed that the three longshoremen were members of a transnational criminal organization operating between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. They exploited their positions to circumvent security and smuggle large quantities of cocaine concealed in cargo ship containers and compartments and voids within the cargo ships.

“Our agents are relentless in their efforts to protect our borders by dismantling any criminal scheme that facilitates the entrance of poisonous narcotics into our island. This multiagency law enforcement collaboration is a great example of the work we are doing to detect any intent to smuggle deadly contraband into our communities,” said HSI San Juan Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Gonzalez-Ramos. “With these arrests, HSI is sending a clear and strong message: Nobody is above the law. We will find those who violate the law and hold them accountable for their decisions — especially those in critical positions in our ports that create vulnerabilities to our island.”

If convicted, the defendants face a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years and a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. A federal district court judge will determine their sentences after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

“Disrupting drug trafficking networks is vitally important to our ongoing efforts to combat the drug trafficking in Puerto Rico and the violence associated with drug trafficking,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico W. Stephen Muldrow. “International cartels like these affect many jurisdictions and stopping them requires robust coordination with our domestic and international partners.”

This significant operation was successful with the support of U.S Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations San Juan, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Coast Guard Investigative Services and CBP Air and Marine Operations.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Max Perez-Bouret, chief of the Transnational Organized Crime Section; Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria L. Montanez-Concepcion, deputy chief of the Transnational Organized Crime Section; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Camille Garcia-Jimenez are prosecuting the case.

To report suspicious activity, please call (787) 729-6969. You may call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 11/08/2023