• The San Juan Daily Star

Police arrest 36 assassins for hire over 3-day period

Police Commissioner Antonio López Figueroa

By John McPhaul

In the continuation of the mega 100 x 35 crime prevention operation, the Puerto Rico Police Bureau, in conjunction with the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Division, issued 11 search warrants at structures in San Juan, Guaynabo and Bayamón early Wednesday and arrested the same number of people linked to multiple payback killings and dangerous criminal organizations dedicated to drug trafficking.

To those were added another 25 arrests made starting Monday.

“These individuals are linked to violent crime by stalking and even murder in public places,” Police Commissioner Antonio López Figueroa said at a press conference. “The purpose of the initiative of the Government Security Plan, which today has a second phase, is to dismantle the structures of multiple criminal groups and the gunmen who work for them. We are actively collecting data on the leaders of the gangs, the way in which the groups operate and all the information that may lead us to clarify the serious crimes committed by the gunmen.”

The police chief noted that among the detainees is Charlie José Díaz Rivera, nicknamed “Charlito,” 38, the leader of a criminal group suspected of several slayings in the Ríos neighborhood, Tomé sector in Guaynabo, and in the Pastrana sector in Caimito. Díaz is on probation in the federal sphere and has two years to go on his sentence. At the time of the police intervention, a rifle and pistol were seized.

Another of those arrested is Christopher Vega Rivera, alias “Cachete,” 22, who was free on bail after being accused of the kidnapping and killing of businesswoman and property seller Rosa Castillo Carranza, in Juncos, in March 2020. Vega is charged with committing murders for pay in Juncos, Caguas and San Juan.

Also arrested was Jesús Alberto Pérez García, alias “Pelotero,” 21, who is a suspect in several homicides perpetrated in the Monte Hatillo public housing complex in Río Piedras. He was recently arrested in the Capetillo neighborhood and the police seized an illegal weapon from him. In addition, Luis Díaz Santana, a resident of Guaynabo, was arrested and the police linked him to several murders in the Guaynabo area.

“These organizations are at war for control of drug points on the island,” said prosecutor Janet Parra, director of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Drugs Division. “As part of a joint effort with the police, prosecutors from the Organized Crime Division swore in the 11 search warrants on Tuesday. Our north star is to continue dismantling criminal organizations; among them they are in a fight to the death to dominate the transfer of controlled substances.”

Commander Wilson Lebrón, from the Police Drugs Bureau, reported that during the interventions dozens of firearms were seized, including AK-47 and R-15 assault rifles, revolvers and pistols, with their respective ammunition, as well as drugs.

The interventions left a balance of 900 people arrested, linked to at least 43 murders for pay, as well as the seizure of hundreds of kilos of drugs and more than 100 firearms.

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