HomeNewsBriefPuerto Rico Drug Arrests Highlight Island as Stepping-Stone to US
BRIEF

Puerto Rico Drug Arrests Highlight Island as Stepping-Stone to US

PUERTO RICO / 23 JUL 2014 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

US authorities have arrested 10 alleged members of a cocaine trafficking network that moved Colombian product via the island of St. Maarten to Puerto Rico and the US mainland, in an operation illustrative of the territory's importance to the drug trade.

On July 22, the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) announced the arrests of Colombian national Javier Carrillo and nine Puerto Ricans as part of an ongoing operation that began in 2012, reported Prensa Latina.

According to Pedro Janer, assistant special agent in charge of the US Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Caribbean Division, Carrillo -- who was detained in the Dominican Republic -- supplied the network with cocaine acquired directly from Colombian laboratories, passing it to his distributor in Puerto Rico, reported Primera Hora. The cocaine was trafficked through the Dutch island territory St. Maarten, and then sold both in Puerto Rico and on the US mainland, reported the Associated Press.

Janer said the organization had moved anywhere from 1 to 5 tons of cocaine to Puerto Rico. According to the Associated Press, the group operated for around a decade, bringing in nearly $127 million in earnings. 

Some of the suspects are also accused of laundering $1.2 million through the Puerto Rican lottery, with the help of a collaborator who provided them winning tickets, and of conspiring to move $12 million in proceeds back to St. Maarten. 

InSight Crime Analysis 

Amid a resurgence in the use of Caribbean drug routes, Puerto Rico has become a key transit point for north-bound product, with maritime seizures approximately tripling in the past three years. This has been facilitated by its status as a US territory, which means shipments of goods are not subjected to customs inspections before entering the mainland.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Puerto Rico

As in the present case, these drugs are often moved first to other Caribbean island territories -- particularly the Dominican Republic -- before being brought to Puerto Rico. 

The case also shows the important role Puerto Ricans often play in trafficking operations. In recent years, authorities have captured a man known as Puerto Rico's "most dangerous" trafficker -- who like Carrillo allegedly had direct connections with Colombian drug groups --, and a man deemed "the Pablo Escobar of the Caribbean," who allegedly led a group that moved some 9 tons of cocaine through Puerto Rico into the US.

The fact some of the cocaine run by the present group was distributed in Puerto Rico also highlights the appeal of a local market that has led to the emergence of sophisticated micro-trafficking gangs.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CARIBBEAN / 1 JUL 2011

A police raid on a notorious slum in Puerto Rico has drawn attention to the increased drug violence in the…

CARIBBEAN / 7 FEB 2013

US authorities are set to invest millions of dollars to tackle drug and arms trafficking in Puerto Rico, according to…

ARGENTINA / 5 MAR 2020

In a year marked by political and criminal turmoil, Latin American capitals did not escape the effects of the violence,…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…