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ICE takes down Puerto Rican drug lord, dismantles largest drug trafficking organization in the Caribbean

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested this morning Jose Figueroa-Agosto (46), the leader of the largest drug trafficking organization in the Caribbean, and 12 other members of his organization.

The defendants were 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 one $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.  The defendants 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 transportation 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, utilize 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. 

Defendant José Figueroa Agosto is charged under the Continuing Criminal Enterprise statute, Title 21, United States Code (USC), 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 Nov. 1999 when he utilized 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, convicted felon Figueroa Agosto was also arrested 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 in or around September 2005 to December 2007.  It was part of the manner and means of the conspiracy that 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.

"Drug trafficking organizations must be aggressively attacked and dismantled at every level - from the street dealer to the international supplier and drug lord," said ICE Director John Morton. "Through the coordinated efforts of ICE and our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we have effectively eradicated the drug trafficking organization of the largest drug distributor in the Caribbean, responsible for bringing significant quantities of drugs into our communities.  Those involved in drug trafficking should know that the Caribbean is no longer an option to transship narcotics into the United States."

"During the continuing criminal enterprise, the leader of which was José Figueroa Agosto, defendants smuggled, purchased and distributed large quantities of cocaine and heroin into our community.  Figueroa Agosto, along with his co-conspirators, made profits, invested the profits in furtherance of their criminal enterprise, laundered the profits and bought vessels and real estate properties, while he was a convicted felon on the run," said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. "This group caused a significant amount of damage in our communities and neighboring countries; we can feel safer today because we have dismantled a very powerful international drug trafficking organization."

 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.