SAN JUAN, P.R (STL.News) A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging nine individuals for firearms trafficking without a license in the District of Puerto Rico, announced W. Stephen Muldrow, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. The investigation was a joint effort between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD).
According to the superseding indictment, defendants Kenrick Vargas-Castro, Emmanuel Rivera-Figueroa, Christopher Shaquille Pérez-Álvarez, Kassandra Cruz, and Mariam Figueroa engaged in the business of dealing in firearms without a license. The purpose of their firearms trafficking conspiracy was to ship firearms from Texas to Puerto Rico for distribution within Puerto Rico for pecuniary gain.
As part of the conspiracy, Pérez-Álvarez purchased firearms in Texas and sent them to Puerto Rico where other co-conspirators delivered them to other individuals in exchange for money. Defendant Mariam Figueroa-Alicea straw purchased firearms in Texas and received money transfers from co-conspirators who were part of the firearms trafficking organization located in Puerto Rico. Defendant Kassandra Cruz prepared firearms for mailing, sent them to Puerto Rico by mail, and received money transfers related to these transactions.
Kenrick Vargas-Castro delivered the firearms to individuals in Puerto Rico in exchange for money. Rivera-Figueroa received firearms from Vargas-Castro and others and delivered them to other individuals in exchange for money.
Count two of the superseding indictment charges Kenrick Vargas-Castro, Kevin Ramos, Leemarie Torres-Castro, Julio Torres-Castro, Emmanuel Rivera-Figueroa, and Christian Pérez-Álvarez for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute over five (5) kilograms of cocaine. These defendants are facing a narcotics forfeiture allegation of $66,933.
Count three charges Kenrick Vargas-Castro, Kevin Ramos, Leemarie Torres-Castro, and Julio Torres-Castro with using means of communication, that is, telephones and the United States mail, to facilitate the trafficking of firearms. Count four charges Kenrick Vargas-Castro, Kevin Ramos, and Leemarie Torres-Castro with a money laundering conspiracy. According to the superseding indictment, these three coconspirators transported currency from the continental United States into Puerto Rico, having the currency concealed within luggage and transported through commercial airlines for delivery in Puerto Rico. They are facing a money laundering forfeiture allegation of $66,291.
Upon conviction of the offenses listed in the superseding indictment, Kenrick Vargas-Castro shall forfeit to the United States one Keltec PLR16 pistol, one Aero Precision X-15 pistol, sixty-three (63) .300 caliber bullets, one round of .45 caliber ammunition, and fifty (50) rounds of .40 caliber ammunition. Christopher Shaquille Pérez-Álvarez and Mariam Figueroa-Alicea shall forfeit to the United States nine (9) Century Arms Micro Draco pistols 7.62 caliber.
“We will vigorously prosecute those involved in the illegal trafficking of drugs and firearms, which are subsequently used in the commission of violent crimes like the shootings that we have seen lately in our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Muldrow. “These arrests show our commitment to hold people accountable for drug and firearms trafficking, as well as for laundering the proceeds of their criminal activities.”
“The indictment and arrest of these individuals sends a clear message to those involved in money laundering as well as drug and illegal weapons trafficking,” said Ivan J. Arvelo, special agent in charge for HSI San Juan. “ICE HSI, along with its local, state and federal law enforcement partners, will go after them, bring them to justice and seize the assets produced by their illicit activity.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeanette M. Collazo-Ortiz and Jonathan L. Gottfried, Chief of the Violent Crimes and National Security Section, are in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted, the defendants face up to five years in prison for the firearms trafficking conspiracy; up to twenty for drug trafficking; and up to twenty years for money laundering.
An indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.