Feds break up prison scheme, arrest 4 correctional officers
By John McPhaul
Federal prosecutor W. Stephen Muldrow announced on Thursday the arrest of 29 people, including four correctional officers, for alleged violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act, for among other things, participating in the scheme known as “el pescaito,” which included various criminal enterprises.
Most of the defendants belong to the Los 27 inmate organization and include the four correctional officers. The alleged scheme began in the 1990s and earned the organization a conservative estimate of $40 million.
“According to the indictment, the group of La 27 is a company that engaged in criminal activities inside and outside the Puerto Rico prison system,” Muldrow said in a press conference. “The criminal company Los 27 was created on June 27, 1980 and its main objective was to take control of the prisons to earn money. They generated money by carrying out various crimes. The main source of income for the company was the introduction and distribution of drugs in Puerto Rico and federal prisons, including cocaine, heroin, marijuana, synthetic cannabis, suboxone, methamphetamine, Xanax, Percocet and fentanyl.”
“In addition, they applied a tax to other prisoners known as ‘the incentive,’ which was when other inmates brought their own drugs into jail. Through the scheme known as ‘canteos,’ members of Los 27 used cell phones illegally introduced into the prison to obtain money from people outside the prison through threats and lies,” Muldrow added. “Hundreds of members of Los 27 would receive cell phones from the leaders of the organization and would dedicate themselves to doing the ‘canteos.’ In one day a member of La 27 could obtain thousands of dollars from the victims of the ‘canteos’. For this reason, the ‘canteos’ were the main source of income for the 27.”
Regarding the arrest of the four Correction and Rehabilitation officers, identified as Sundry Ortiz Brito, Cynthia Caquías Rodríguez, Naomie Clavel Nadal and Grecia Salas Cruz, Correction and Rehabilitation Secretary Ana Escobar Pabón said “this is an investigation that has been carried out since 2017.”
“We have been working with the staff for nearly five years, in order to be able to address what this criminal activity is and then be able to take those who have participated in these activities to the ultimate consequences,” she said. “So we are not just talking about four, it could probably be more and it could probably be another type of crime.”
Of the 29 arrested, three are imprisoned in the United States and 11 are imprisoned in Puerto Rico in different jails, while 18 were in the free community. If found guilty, they face life in prison.