Lovers of alleged trafficker charged in Dominican Republic in money laundering case

By Ezequiel Abiu Lopez, AP
Friday, July 23, 2010

Lovers of alleged druglord appear in DomRep court

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Eight people who allegedly spent $170 million on apartments, cars and other goods using money from the Caribbean’s top drug trafficker were formally charged with money laundering and other crimes on Friday.

The suspects include two of Jose Figueroa Agosto’s lovers, including the woman who was living with him when he was captured Saturday in Puerto Rico.

Sobeida Felix Morel, 31, turned herself in shortly after Figueroa was caught and she was quickly sent back to the Dominican Republic. She wore a flak jacket and ballistic helmet in the court session, as did the other female defendant, Madelin Bernal. Felix’s ex-husband, Eddy Brito, is among the defendants.

None of them entered a plea, though Felix’s attorney, Felix Portes, said she should be released.

“There is no evidence that ties her to drug trafficking or to money laundering,” he said.

They are scheduled back in court on Aug. 11.

Prosecutors say the group purchased $170 million worth of apartments, cars and other items with drug money that Figueroa earned.

Officials describe Figueroa as the Pablo Escobar of the Caribbean, a reference to the 1980s drug kingpin of Colombia. He is suspected of shipping Colombian drugs to the U.S. mainland through Puerto Rico.

Figueroa escaped from a Puerto Rican prison in 1999 after serving four years of a 209-year sentence for killing someone suspected of stealing a cocaine shipment. He then moved to the Dominican Republic and at some point returned to Puerto Rico.

Dominican officials have not said if they will seek to extradite Figueroa, who faces kidnapping, money-laundering, drug-trafficking and murder charges here.

But U.S. and Puerto Rican officials have their own plans for Figueroa, 45.

On Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said it turn Figueroa over to Puerto Rican authorities once it resolves the federal passport fraud charges he faces.

Felix, who had been awaiting trial on the money laundering charges, was granted bail in October 2009 so she could care for her two children. Instead, she fled to Puerto Rico and joined Figueroa.

Wanted posters of the couple are still plastered across Santo Domingo.

Dominican police also have released pictures and videos of Figueroa having sex with Felix and Bernal to prove the women’s connections to him.

Police are still looking for Figueroa’s wife, Leavy Nin Batista, who remains a fugitive.

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