• The San Juan Daily Star

Long-term drug op nets 800 suspects, including wanted gunmen

Law enforcement authorities on Tuesday announced the arrests of 800 suspects and the seizure of hundreds of kilograms of drugs and more than 100 weapons as part of a joint clandestine operation, “100 x 35,” which took place over a month and a half.

By John McPhaul

Police revealed Tuesday that they have arrested 800 suspects and seized hundreds of kilos of drugs and more than 100 weapons as part of a secret operation called “100 x 35” undertaken jointly by the Puerto Rico Police Bureau and the Organized Crime Division of the Department of Justice (DJ) over 45 consecutive days in 76 municipalities.

Police Commissioner Antonio López Figueroa said it is the first and most comprehensive joint operation of its kind to date and is part of the strategies contained in the island government’s Comprehensive Security Plan.

“We use surveillance and interventions through drug points to identify their structures, enter and intervene in them directly. This produced a substantial number of arrests that generated the information and data necessary for the intelligence divisions to identify gunmen,” López Figueroa said in a press conference. “At the same time, other teams provided surveillance and monitoring, as part of the investigation process to, along with the Department of Justice, generate raids against murder suspects previously identified as gunmen. Along with the two previous initiatives, other divisions conducted covert operations with the aim of buying evidence from drug dealers. All this was carried out in unison through 76 towns for the 45 days that the initiative was extended.”

The police commissioner added that, as part of the intelligence work, police officers and prosecutors from the DJ’s Organized Crime Division were able to identify the new sales, marketing and distribution methodologies used by the organizations at their drug “points.”

“From novel promotion methods, ‘delivery’ services and payments through electronic platforms (ATH Móvil), they are part of the new strategies they use,” López Figueroa said. “The emblems they use to distinguish and market their products were also identified, ranging from the image of Pablo Escobar to the Gucci signature logo. They operate as an entire organization with personnel structures, and marketing and distribution strategies.”

During the operation, police also managed to seize, through raids, undercover purchases and at points of sale, more than 173 weapons, including a live grenade and around 146 kilos of cocaine, in addition to shipments of other types of substances processed at retail. To those was added the confiscation of 117 vehicles and close to $1 million.

López Figueroa said the objective of this initiative is to dismantle the structures of multiple criminal organizations that live off drug trafficking on the island, while intervening with dozens of gunmen who work for them and are responsible for multiple murders. Likewise, the interventions managed to meet one of the main objectives of the initiative, the solving of some 43 murders, the island’s top cop said.

About 500 police officers, belonging to different divisions of the uniformed police, participated in the operation along with a team of prosecutors from the DJ’s Organized Crime Division, and in collaboration with the island Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security Investigation.

“Most of the deaths in Puerto Rico are the result of control by the so-called drug points,” the police commissioner said. “As part of the Government Security Plan, we organized this investigative operation, in which, for the first time, three methodologies are being used simultaneously and strategically in order to produce the intelligence necessary to achieve the dismantling of these organizations and to remove from the streets gunmen who are responsible for multiple deaths.”

Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández said the Organized Crime Division, headed by prosecutor Janet Parra, managed all search warrants, which became key tools for police officers to enter the structures and to achieve the arrests and the seizure of considerable sums of controlled substances, illegal weapons, as well as the clarification of crimes.

“The search is a vitally important tool to ensure a greater possibility of conviction at the court level, especially at times when a unanimous verdict of guilt is required by a jury,” Emanuelli Hernández said. “Additionally, in the case of this 100 x 35 initiative, it became the method for seizing important evidence and the strategy for seizing substantial amounts of merchandise from these organizations, thus impacting their profits.”

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