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Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands HIDTA

General Information:
  Year of Designation:  1994
  Geographic Area of Responsibility:
    Puerto Rico:

The Islands of Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra.

    U.S. Virgin Islands: The Islands of Saint Thomas, Saint Croix and Saint John.
    Contact: (787) 474-8710 and [email protected]

Mission Statement:

In support of the National Drug Control Strategy, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands HIDTA participating agencies creates intelligence driven task forces comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement agents aimed at eliminating or reducing drug trafficking and its associated consequences within the domestic environment.

Threat Abstract:

The PR/USVI HIDTA was designated in 1994 as transshipment HIDTA. Drug trafficking Organizations (DTOs) account for trafficking from 110 - 150 metric tons of cocaine from Colombia using multiple transportation methods. Over 70% of it is destined for the US, Canada and Europe. Colombian cocaine & heroin traffickers continue to dominate the supply, the Dominican have become smugglers and developed countries are the main consumers. Preferred method for trafficking is by sea means, ranging from “go-fast” boats to small island-hopping freighters. The two principal narcotics smuggled from Colombia are cocaine and heroin, and some marijuana. Marijuana is primarily imported from Mexico through CONUS and other Caribbean islands while European ecstasy is trafficked through Dominican Republic.

Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands drug consumption is estimated at about 20-30% of the drugs transshipped, while the predominant drug of choice is cocaine. The PR/USVI region is very attractive to DTOs due to the fact that is a U. S. major commercial port, has the strongest regional economy and, moreover, its proximity to the surveillance and interdiction.

The geophysical composition of the islands, more than 50 small islets and cays in the USVI alone, also facilitates clandestine activities and correspondingly makes it difficult to patrol. The more than 363 miles of coastline in Puerto Rico and the 105 miles in USVI make it ideal for coast smuggling activities. Being only 380 miles from South America coast and having a high volume of commercial containerized shipments, facilitates narcotics transshipment.

Strategy Abstract:

An Executive Board comprised of 10 federal and 10 state/local agency heads (16 from PR and 4 from USVI) implement joint law enforcement initiatives, allocates resources and prioritizes operations to ensure a joint/commingled interactive approach, more information sharing, innovative drug interdiction techniques, and prioritizing criminal investigations. Most important, the Board annually reviews each Initiative goals and outcomes/outputs to enhance performance and works to achieve national supply reduction strategic goals. Two Case Management Committees (one for PR and one for USVI) coordinates all investigative efforts to ensure coordination and information sharing among participating agencies. Both are comprised of the initiatives supervisors and federal and state prosecutors. Over 815 state, local and federal law enforcement and support personnel are co-located, commingled, and strategically positioned across the threat spectrum to enhance coverage within the Area of Responsibility (AOR). To address poorest countries in the Caribbean, and its strong ties to Spanish-speaking culture, has made it an ideal place for the drug business. Annually the area hosts over 2,500,000 cruise ship passengers and the PR airport processes over 9,500,000 visitors. These high tourism/transient visitors are contributory factors that complicate both, the drug threat there are 16 (sixteen) Initiatives: three smuggling interdiction, nine investigative, one regional intelligence, and three regional support Initiatives.

All operations are based in solid developed intelligence to focus law enforcement coverage, constant interdiction activities, uncover communication links, investigate criminal activities, dismantling money laundering schemes and detecting new criminal trends. All of them converging to develop a systematic joint approach designed to reduce the opportunity to conduct successful drug trafficking operations. This joint approach is used to reduce the AOR's attractiveness as a preferred Caribbean staging and transshipment route to and from CONUS for illegal drugs, illegal firearms, illegal aliens and drug proceeds money laundering.

Initiatives approved to implement the PR/USVI HIDTA 2004-05 Strategy include:

1. Air & Marine Interdiction Program (FURA) this PR Police Department led initiative provides command, control, communications, coordination & intelligence (C4&I) to assigned forces which allow for marine, air and ground interdiction within the coastline of Puerto Rico.
2. Blue Lightning Strike Force – this US Virgin Islands Police Department led task force implement maritime interdiction efforts in the surrounding waters of the USVI to close the entry of contraband, the inflow of cocaine, heroin and marijuana from being utilized as a transshipment point to CONUS.
3. DEA Forensic Laboratory – this DEA led initiative provides technical forensic support, ensure efficient and effective evidence analysis/processing, and prompt availability of expert witnesses to support successful prosecutions.
4. HIDTA Training Initiative – this USCG lead task force recently modified, is responsible to train the law enforcement community to enhance the quality of drug related investigations, strengthen the local/state law enforcement agencies, increase the conviction rate of drug trafficking related crime defendants at the state level and increase the safety of law enforcement officers in Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands.
5. HIDTA / HIFCA Money Laundering Initiative led by ICE this task force conducts complex investigations and interdiction of money laundering organizations and schemes related to DTOs. Its purpose is to detect/ interdict/ dismantle DTOs smuggling and laundering illegally obtained cash proceeds from their operations.
6. Fajardo Major Organization Investigations led by DEA this initiative conducts long-term complex investigations geared to dismantle sophisticated DTOs operating in the East area of Puerto Rico, including offshore municipalities of Vieques and Culebra islands.
7. High Seas Narcotics / Migrant Trafficking Operations - led by USCG this initiative address regional illegal narcotic and illegal migrant trafficking through 24 hour investigation/ interdiction by means of sea and air over 12 nautical miles.

8. Investigative Support Center (ISC) – lead by FBI this task force provides strategic, operations and tactical information, deconfliction services through coordination of intelligence support sharing among all law enforcement agencies within the HIDTA and graphically organize investigative information. By acquiring information, processing it into meaningful data and disseminating intelligence it supports all HIDTA subsystems and task forces.
9. Management and Coordination Support Initiative (MCSI) - led by contracted civilians this initiative provides management, administrative, coordination, and logistical support structure for all HIDTA initiatives. MCSI serves as a facilitator to the Executive Board decision making process, program implementation, ensure cost-effectiveness, maintaining resources accountability and control over all programs, property and funds.
10. Ponce Major Organization Investigations - led by DEA this initiative conducts long-range complex investigations geared to dismantle sophisticated DTOs operating in the Southwest region of PR.
11. Puerto Rico Fugitive Task Force - led by USMS this initiative arrest narcotic criminals associated with smuggling, distribution, money laundering and street gang drug related activities throughout the AOR.

12. Safe Neighborhoods Initiative – This newly created initiative identify, target, investigate and prosecute drug trafficking criminal organizations, dismantle/disrupt their operational establishment as it relates to the use of firearms during the commission of violent crimes associated with drug trafficking throughout Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. It engages organizations that supply illegal firearms to organizations that use them to exert violent control over the different residential communities in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
13. St. Croix Major Organization Investigations led by DEA this initiative conducts long-range complex investigations geared to dismantle sophisticated DTOs operating in St. Croix.
14. San Juan Major Organization Investigations led by DEA this initiative conducts long-range complex investigations geared to dismantle sophisticated DTOs operating in the North West region of PR.
15. St. Thomas Major Organization Investigations led by DEA this initiative conducts long-term complex investigations geared to dismantle sophisticated DTOs operating in St. Thomas, VI.

Investigative Support Center:

Comprised of 52 intelligence analysts and agents from most of the HIDTA participating agencies, receives information and delivers accurate and timely intelligence on drug related criminal activity to initiatives and law enforcement agencies (LEA). Specifics include: Communication links to allow sharing of timely and relevant information among all operators of the law enforcement community. It fosters information sharing among LEAs in an unbiased working environment to all law enforcement components: State/Local and Federal. Provide one central location for all LEAs intelligence services to base initiative participants commingling in a personal information sharing environment.

The ISC serves as a central mechanism to collect, organize and disseminate information as final intelligence product using the Racketeering Enterprise Investigation (RICO) concept. Analysts, provided by FBI, DEA, USBOP, USCS, USARSO and PRNG uncovers links by serving instant, accurate, organized and clean intelligence products, meet agent- informants requirements, which are then transformed into investigative or law enforcement operations. Using advance technology databases, advanced hardware, latest software and ultimate communication devices like Title III (TII/S2 system), training the force and DEA Forensic Laboratory support, accelerates and enhances the investigative capacities. It serves as one site information gathering and dissemination structure that organize the necessary evidence for successful prosecution and conviction of criminals. Uncover criminal targets of opportunity, provide deconfliction of investigations and assure the dismantling of organizations by allowing for the highest quality and timely intelligence products and identifying DTOs resources purchased with drug proceeds.

Participating Agencies:

Federal : Drug Enforcement Agency, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Federal Bureau of Investigations, (Chair) Immigration and Customs Enforcement, US Coast Guard, Internal Revenue Service, United States Attorney's Office - Puerto Rico, United States Attorney's Office - Virgin Islands, United States Coast Guard, and United States Marshal Service.

State: Drug Control Office - PR, Department of Justice - PR, Department of Justice - VI, Puerto Rico National Guard, Virgin Islands National Guard, Puerto Rico Department of Corrections, Puerto Rico Department of Treasury, Puerto Rico Police Department, (Vice-Chair) PR Special Investigations Bureau, and Virgin Islands Police Department.

Significant Achievements:

We have achieved extraordinary success in intelligence, operational and organizational developments since our inception. Beginning in FY 1996 as a “Gateway” HIDTA, we had twelve barely staffed and equipped squads comprising one Interdiction, one Intelligence, eight Investigative and two Support initiatives. By FY 1997, PR/USVI HIDTA had dismantled/disrupted twelve organizations that were mostly operating state/local and national. The first threat assessment developed through the intelligence initiative caused participating agencies to develop a greater involvement in investigations, assign additional resources and participate in joint and commingled operations. By the end of CY 2001, 16 initiatives have yielded over 250 DTOs/MLOs dismantled/disrupted.

Our Operational-TEMPO since CY 2002 has been driven by intelligence and improving our capability to conduct investigative and interdiction activities, the effectiveness of judicial and local law enforcement institutions, and reducing the introduction of drugs in the Caribbean. Totally focused in the joint/commingled investigative approach, this HIDTA have grown to 91% of maturity in the PMEs and over 92% on the GPRA requirements resulting in better investigations. The PR/USVI HIDTA Money Laundering Initiative /HIFCA have indirectly and effectively contributed to the National counter-money laundering efforts. “Operation Double Impact” was an investigation that revealed that Roberto FERRARIO and his associates laundered approximately $32 million in narcotics proceeds

through Banco Popular de PR during the period of July 1995 to December
1998. Additionally, an IRS investigation targeting Jairo de Jesus VALLEJO- JURADO which resulted in an indictment in June 2000, revealed that from late 1998 through 2000 ( post Ferrario ), Vallejo used two accounts at BPPR to launder nearly $2 million of narcotics proceeds. This investigation, which encompassed FERRARIO and VALLEJO criminal cases, was expanded to include a financial analysis of approximately eleven- (11) accounts maintained at BPPR by Dominican Republic money services business (MSB) that appear to have launder billions of dollars in criminally derived proceeds through BPPR. The investigation proved that the corporation, including the Board of Directors and other managers, had knowledge of the money laundering activity and were willfully blind to the activity. On January 15, 2003, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and BPPR entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement. Pursuant to a forfeiture clause in the agreement, BPPR paid $21.6 million dollars that were deposited into the Treasury Forfeiture Fund.

Reaching Out To Other HIDTAs: The PR/USVI HIDTA has promote the counter-drug efforts and coordinated support from/to the Caribbean countries and Florida, Washington/Baltimore, New York/New Jersey, and El Paso HIDTAs among others. Cooperation in investigative efforts and information sharing has been critical in the success for case solving.

Cooperative International Support: PU/USVI HIDTA is been asked to brief other countries joint law enforcement/ military groups on the HIDTA concept. These groups have demonstrated interest in using the HIDTA joint concept at their countries as a way to deter drugs trafficking within their AORs.

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Last Updated: February 7, 2005