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Operation Family Business nets 31 arrests for drug trafficking, possession of illegal firearms

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), working together with other federal and local law enforcement partners, arrested 31 people Thursday for drug trafficking and possession of illegal firearms. The operation, dubbed 'Family Business', took place at the Ernesto Ramos Antonini public housing project in San Juan as well as in the municipalities of Humacao and Cayey.

Those arrested are charged in a six-count indictment with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances in a federally protected location, conspiracy to distribute heroin, crack (cocaine base), cocaine, marijuana, Oxycodone (commonly known as Percocet) and Alprazolam (commonly known as Xanax). The object of the conspiracy was to distribute controlled substances at the Ernesto Ramos Antonini public housing project and nearby areas within the municipality of San Juan for significant financial gain and profit.

According to the indictment, beginning in 2005 the defendants conspired to possess with the intent to distribute narcotics. The main leader of the organization was Raymond Cruz-Serrano. He controlled and supervised drug trafficking operations at drug sales points and acted as an enforcer.

The indictment further alleges that the co-conspirators used many roles in order to further the goals of the conspiracy. These include one leader, three managers, five drug owners, one enforcer, seven runners, 23 sellers and two lookouts.

The co-conspirators would also conduct drug transactions in the presence of minors and would use juveniles to distribute narcotics at the drug distribution points located within the housing project. Some members of the drug trafficking organization would routinely possess, carry, brandish and use firearms to protect themselves and their drug trafficking organization. Twenty-one members of the drug trafficking organization are facing one count of using and carrying firearms during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.

"These arrests show HSI's resolve to attack and dismantle the street gangs that are threatening and terrorizing our neighborhoods with violence," said Angel Melendez, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "Nobody deserves to live in a community of violence and fear inflicted by unscrupulous gang members who have no respect for human life. Members of these gangs are institutionally involved in crime and so are their organizations. Through Operation Caribbean Resilience, HSI will continue to conduct aggressive enforcement actions against members and associates of violent gangs in an effort to return to the citizens in Puerto Rico the peace and safety they deserve."

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

The following agencies participated in the operation: HSI, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Puerto Rico Police Department and the municipal police of San Juan and Guaynabo.