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HSI arrests 9 on federal drug trafficking charges

Suspects were previously charged with murder in state court

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents arrested nine individuals Tuesday in Ponce for drug trafficking. The arrests occurred immediately after the suspects were released from a state penitentiary due to a writ of habeas corpus, which is a petition for release that places the burden of proof on those detaining the person to justify the detention. The men were in state custody for their alleged involvement in the murder of a Ponce resident.

The two-count indictment charges the nine individuals with possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances at the Mendez Vigo area of Ponce. The object of the conspiracy was to distribute crack cocaine (cocaine base), cocaine, marijuana and heroin for significant financial gain and profit.

Those arrested were:

  • Leonardo Lizardi-Muñiz
  • Reynaldo Lizardi-Muñiz
  • Marino Maldonado-Muniz
  • Jayson Rentas- Muñiz
  • Jose L. Rinaldi-Velez
  • Jorge Rivera-Rivera
  • Elvin Roman-Diaz
  • Omar Sotomayor-Sepulveda
  • Jose A. Villodas-Chamorro

According to the indictment, the defendants possessed, carried, brandished, discharged and used firearms to protect themselves and their drug trafficking activities. They would routinely wear bullet proof vests in order to protect themselves during shootouts with rival drug traffickers.

Those arrested had their initial hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Camille Velez-Rive Tuesday and were transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo awaiting the outcome of their case.

If convicted, the defendants face a sentence of 15 years to life in prison with fines of up to $10 million.