SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – On December 3, 2020, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned a three count indictment charging five men and three women, who are members of a drug trafficking organization, with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, announced W. Stephen Muldrow, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in conjunction with the Airport Investigations and Tactical Team (AirTAT) were in charge of the investigation. AirTAT identifies, locates, disrupts, dismantles, and prosecutes transnational crime organizations using the airports in Puerto Rico to smuggle narcotics, weapons, human cargo, counterfeit documents, illegal proceeds, and other contraband.
“This investigation demonstrates the collaborative effort to identify, target and dismantle drug trafficking organizations involved in transporting narcotics from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland,” said W. Stephen Muldrow, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to attack this problem and deter the use of Puerto Rico as a transshipment location.”
DEA Caribbean Division Special Agent in Charge, A.J. Collazo said that “We will continue to utilize all our inter-agency resources towards the disruption and dismantlement of these drug trafficking organizations whatever modality they utilize.”
The indictment alleges that in 2018, the defendants, together with other persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury conspired to obtain, transport, and distribute narcotics, including cocaine, from Puerto Rico to New York. This drug trafficking organization is a network of recruiters, coordinators, and transporters traveling from the District of Puerto Rico to the continental United States via commercial flights with narcotics for wholesale distribution, all for significant financial gain and profit.
The defendants indicted are:
Jaime Antonio Nieto-Irizarry
Frankie Javier Piñero-Miranda
José Luis Acevedo-Atilano
Jaime David Ruiz-Delgado
Tiffany Michelle Zayas-Román
Saraí Denisse Rivera-Díaz
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jawayria Z. Auchter and Richard T. Passanisi from the Transnational Organized Crime Section arein charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted, the defendants face a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison. Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
This investigation is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
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