DEA agents sweep Puerto Rico housing projects, net dozens in raid on violent drug gang

Friday, July 16, 2010

DEA nets dozens in raid on PR housing projects

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — U.S. agents swept into housing projects near Puerto Rico’s capital Friday to break up a drug gang whose jailed alleged leader was recently cleared in a drive-by shooting that killed a 2-year-old girl.

The Drug Enforcement Administration led the pre-dawn raid on four housing projects in Bayamon, just west of San Juan, with warrants for 110 suspects. By midday Friday, 47 had been arrested, and authorities planned to continue pursuing fugitives through the weekend, said Special Agent Waldo Santiago, a DEA spokesman.

The gang is believed to use violence to intimidate rivals and prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators.

The reputed leader, Jose Colon de Jesus, has been held on drug charges since he was arrested by DEA agents on April 30, the same day he was acquitted in the drive-by shooting.

Island authorities had accused him of masterminding the April 2009 attack on a car that killed three people, including 2-year-old Arielys Olivo Ortiz.

Drug violence is blamed for a soaring murder rate in this U.S. Caribbean territory as rival gangs battle for control of heroin- and cocaine-selling points, mainly inside the island’s housing projects.

More than 250 agents from the DEA, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and local police participated in the raids.

will not be displayed