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February 1, 2015San Juan, PR, United StatesContraband

ICE dismantles major transnational drug trafficking, money laundering organization

Operation Bullfighter nets 19 arrests
Operation Bullfighter nets 19 arrests for drug trafficking and money laundering

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Nineteen alleged members of a major international drug trafficking and money laundering organization responsible for the importation of multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine into the United States and the laundering of millions of dollars were arrested Thursday in Colombia, Puerto Rico and Florida. Dubbed “Bullfighter,” the joint investigation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

On Dec. 4, 2014, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned a 23-count indictment charging 29 individuals with numerous violations of federal narcotics and money laundering laws.  The charges include conspiracy to import controlled substances, conspiracy to possess controlled substances, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and substantive counts of money laundering and international money laundering. The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation for the proceeds obtained as a result of the organization’s illegal activities.

The individuals named in the indictment are Carlos A. Segura-Galvis, Adolfo Leon García-Sierra, Jair Eudoro Ramirez-Diaz, Roque Caballero-Caballero, Hugo Ocampo-Gutierrez, Mireya Cabra-Traslaviña, Elkin Melendez-Santiago, Gamalier Gonzalez-Maldonado, Giovanni Cosme-Fernandez, Eduardo Esteras-Rosado, José O. Medina-Nery, Hugo Enrique Romero-Vargas, Edison Miranda-Angulo, Noe Carbajal, Felipe Francisco De La Plaza, Edwin Lozada-Flores, Miguel Vargas-Roa, Ricardo Rodriguez-Rodriguez, Jorge Villarran-Romero, Francisco Otero-Retamar, Miguel A. Lebron-Hernandez, Eldin Melendez-Santiago, Angel M. Sierra-Rivera, Bergman Santiago-Contes, Jose Martínez-Meléndez, Flor Marina Gonzalez-Rojas, Geovanny Mosquera-Vanegas, Yurgen Gabriel Alvarez-Gutierrez and Brian Montalvo-Tolentino.

Nine of the 29 defendants, Adolfo Leon García-Sierra, Jair Eudoro Ramírez-Diaz, Roque Caballero-Caballero, Hugo Ocampo-Gutierrez, Mireya Cabra-Traslaviña, Hugo Enrique Romero-Vargas, Flor Marina Gonzalez-Rojas, Geovanny Mosquera-Vanegas and Yurgen Gabriel Alvarez-Gutierrez, will be extradited from Colombia to stand trial in Puerto Rico.

“This case demonstrates that those involved in the distribution of narcotics and other contraband will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted,” said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. “Drug trafficking organizations must be aggressively attacked and dismantled at every level, from the street dealer to the international supplier and drug lord. Through the coordinated efforts of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we have effectively eradicated an organization responsible for bringing significant quantities of drugs into our communities.”

The investigation leading to the arrests revealed that, from November 2010 through September 2012, members of the organization operating in Colombia were sending kilogram quantities of cocaine to Puerto Rico using go-fast vessels. Members of the organization in Colombia and Puerto Rico coordinated the maritime transportation using vessels that would depart from the northern part of Venezuela and would meet other vessels departing from Puerto Rico to receive the drugs at a pre-arranged point, approximately 100 nautical miles south of Puerto Rico.  On some occasions, the vessels coming from Venezuela would travel directly to the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, to deliver the drugs to individuals who were waiting for the drugs at shore. The drugs would be briefly stored in Vieques until transported into the main island of Puerto Rico through the Fajardo-Vieques ferry. On some occasions the organization also used cargo containers and other types of vessels to smuggle cocaine and heroin into Puerto Rico. 

As part of the modus operandi, members of the organization in Puerto Rico traveled to Venezuela and other places and remained there during the drug smuggling ventures to act as a personal guarantee, also known as fiscales, for the payment of the controlled substances smuggled into Puerto Rico.

Once the drugs were smuggled into Puerto Rico, members of the organization operating in the Barrio Obrero ward of Santurce and other parts of San Juan’s metropolitan area received the drugs and distributed them in Puerto Rico for financial gain. A portion of the drugs would be further transported to New York for further distribution and additional financial gain. Once the drugs were distributed, members of the organization would reap the profits from the sale of the controlled substances and would wait for instructions from Colombia on how to send the proceeds of their illegal drug trafficking business back to Colombia. 

The organization would repatriate their illegal proceeds through wire transfers to banking institutions in Panama and China, Western Union transfers to individuals in Colombia and Peru and by the use of couriers traveling to Puerto Rico from Colombia, Venezuela and/or Florida to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in bulk cash.

The investigation also revealed that the organization used threats, intimidation and acts of violence, including kidnappings, to collect debts for the controlled substances smuggled into Puerto Rico. 

Those arrested face sentences of 10 years to life in prison for the narcotics violations and up to 20 years for the money laundering violations. Ten individuals remain at-large.

Updated: 02/03/2015