Puerto Rico’s new police chief, Jose Caldero, on May 2, 2014, at his office at police headquarters in San Juan. EFE/File
News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Fri. May 23, 2014: Sixteen current and former Puerto Rico police officers were on Thursday indicted for their alleged participation in a criminal organization, run out of the police department that used their affiliation with law enforcement to make money through robbery, extortion, manipulating court records, and selling illegal narcotics.
The indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico, includes 36 charges against Osvaldo Vazquez-Ruiz, 38; Orlando Sierra-Pereira, 37; Danny Nieves-Rivera, 34; Roberto Ortiz-Cintron, 34; Yovanny Crespo-Candelaria, 33; Jose Sanchez-Santiago, 31; Miguel Perez-Rivera, 34; Nadab Arroyo-Rosa, 33; Jose Flores-Villalongo, 52; Luis Suarez-Sanchez, 36; Eduardo Montañez-Perez, 29; Carlos Laureano-Cruz, 40; Carlos Candelario-Santiago, 46; Ruben Casiano-Pietri, 36; Ricardo Rivera-Rodriguez, 39 and Christian Valles-Collazo, 28.
The first 13 defendants listed are charged with conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Other charges against certain defendants include extortion and attempted extortion under color of official right, conspiracy to commit robbery and attempted robbery, illegal use and sale of firearms, narcotics trafficking, civil rights violations, theft of government property, and false statements to federal agents.
According to the indictment, the officers charged with RICO conspiracy were members of a criminal organization who sought to enrich themselves through a pattern of illegal conduct.
The officers worked together to conduct traffic stops and enter homes or buildings used by persons suspected of being engaged in criminal activity to steal money, property, and narcotics. The officers planted evidence to make false arrests and then extorted money in exchange for their victims’ release from custody. In exchange for bribe payments, the defendants gave false testimony, manipulated court records, and failed to appear in court when required so that cases would be dismissed. The officers also sold and distributed wholesale quantities of narcotics.
The indictment charges that the defendants frequently shared the proceeds they illegally obtained and that they used their power, authority, and official positions as police officers to promote and protect their illegal activity.
Among other things, the indictment charges that they used POPR firearms, badges, patrol cars, tools, uniforms, and other equipment to commit the crimes and concealed their illegal activity with fraudulently obtained court documents and falsified POPR paperwork to make it appear that they were engaged in legitimate police work.
Acting U.S. Attorney General David A. O’Neil said Thursday the officers made “a mockery of the police’s sacred responsibility to protect the public.”
The officers allegedly conducted traffic stops and illegally entered the homes of suspected criminals, then stole their money and property, including illegal drugs. They then allegedly promised to arrange for the release of their victims from prison – but only in return for cash bribes.
“When citizens can’t trust the very people whose mission is to uphold the law – when the person wearing Police of Puerto Rico on their back or on their badge is no different from the gangster down the street – everyone in the community suffers,” he added.
But the acting US A.G. reiterated: “No one – and certainly no one in law enforcement – is above the law.”