ICE seizes more than $2.2 million in luxury watches and special cars from members of a drug trafficking organization
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents seized 15 luxury watches with an approximate market value of $1 million and 16 classic and collection cars, with an approximately value of $2.2 million, this morning from members of the Jose Figueroa-Agosto - aka Junior Capsula - drug trafficking organization.
Among the items seized is a Roger Dubois watch with an estimated value of $100,000 and a special edition Camaro with an engine that runs on jet fuel, valued at more than $75,000.
"These seizures are proof that ICE HSI will continue to aggressively go after those organizations dedicated to the importation of drugs into Puerto Rico as well as their assets," said Roberto Escobar Vargas, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Puerto Rico.
Jose Figueroa Agosto, 46, the leader of the largest drug trafficking organization in the Caribbean, and 12 other members of his organization were arrested by ICE HSI agents on Nov. 21, 2010.
The group was charged in a 12-count indictment with conspiracy to import narcotics into the United States, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, and money laundering. The indictment also seeks to forfeit the proceeds obtained as a result of such offenses, up to an amount of $100 million.
According to the indictment, from 2005, the defendants conspired to import multi kilogram quantities of cocaine into Puerto Rico from places outside of the United States, mainly the Dominican Republic, all for significant financial gain and profit. They also conspired to possess, with intent to distribute, the multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine in Puerto Rico. Co-conspirators assumed various roles within the drug trafficking organization in order to further the object of the conspiracy, including but not limited to leaders, transporters, and facilitators.
The leaders of this organization included José David Figueroa-Agosto, aka Junior Capsula; José Miguel Marrero Martell, aka Pito Nariz; Jorge Luis Figueroa-Agosto; and Eddy Brito.
It is alleged that the co-conspirators would smuggle hundreds of kilograms of cocaine into Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic in private vessels. The narcotics would be distributed in Puerto Rico and the continental United States, and part of the drug proceeds would also be smuggled from Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic in bulk cash quantities.
The indictment further alleges that transporters of the organization were responsible for the movement of narcotics into Puerto Rico on board the private motor vessels. Many of the transporters purchased luxury motor vessels in order to transport the narcotics into Puerto Rico.
The following co-conspirators acted as transporters in this organization: Diego Pérez Colón, Sixto Boschetti Dávila, Kareem Boschetti Dávila, Elier Martínez Delgado, Rafael Molina Padró, Ivan Crespo Talavera, Raúl González Díaz, Carlos Torres Landrúa, Hector Ramos Rosado, Jonathan Vega Berrios and Joel Vega Berrios. Gerardo Amaro Rodríguez acted as a facilitator, assisting with the placement, layering and integration of the organization's narcotics proceeds within legitimate economic and financial systems.
The defendants would attempt to create the appearance that their narcotics proceeds were legitimate by purchasing assets through the use of "straw owners" or "jockeys." The defendants and their co-conspirators would purchase assets, use nominee bank accounts to deposit narcotics proceeds, and make payments for services with cash and money orders. This would be done in order to conceal the true ownership of the assets, conceal the source of the funds, and avoid tracing by financial institutions and civil and criminal authorities, thereby protecting their interest in the properties.
José Figueroa-Agosto is charged under the Continuing Criminal Enterprise statute, Title 21, U.S. Code, Section 848. The charges set forth in count three of the indictment indicate that from 1994, continuing up to and until July 17, 2010, in the District of Puerto Rico, New York, Venezuela, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, on the high seas, José Figueroa-Agosto occupied a position of organizer, supervisor and manager in a criminal enterprise, which involved the possession with intent to distribute and the importation of cocaine, and from which continuing series of violations, he obtained substantial income and resources.
On July 17, 2010, José Figueroa-Agosto was arrested in Puerto Rico after being a fugitive since November 1999 when he used false documents to escape from a Puerto Rico correctional facility. He was subsequently charged with fraudulently obtaining a passport to travel to the Dominican Republic. As charged in the indictment, he continued his criminal enterprise of drug trafficking. At the time of his arrest, he was also arrested for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm for which charges are included in the indictment.
José Figueroa-Agosto is also indicted in a second superseding indictment for conspiracy to import more than 2,100 kilograms of cocaine into Puerto Rico between the years 2000 and 2001.
The indictment also includes money laundering allegations from around September 2005 to December 2007, where the defendants would acquire vessels with illegal proceeds for use in drug and currency smuggling ventures between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. They would also transfer ownership or loan the vessels amongst themselves in furtherance of the drug trafficking activities.
If convicted, the defendants face a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life with fines of up to $4 million. Figueroa-Agosto is facing a mandatory life sentence if found guilty of the continuing criminal enterprise charge.