Police break up $65M drug ring in Puerto Rico
Chief Jose Figueroa Sancha estimates that 70 percent of killings in Puerto Rico are tied to drug trafficking
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Hundreds of police and federal agents raided a public housing complex Tuesday and arrested more than three dozen people allegedly involved in selling an estimated $65 million worth of drugs.
Authorities rounded up 39 of the 70 suspects being sought for being in a gang that sold heroin, crack, cocaine, marijuana and prescription drugs to people in the northern coastal city of Carolina and nearby areas, police said.
U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez said the suspects kept two apartments known as "the freezers" - one to prepare drugs and store weapons and the other to relax, watch TV and play video games.
The gang allegedly had operated since 2002 and included runners, lookouts and enforcers who would also kidnap and beat up their own members to keep control of the organization.
The suspects took over the ring once led by drug kingpin Jose Lopez Rosario, who allegedly controlled the drug trade in the U.S. island's northeastern region and was shot to death in July 2006.
Charges against the suspects carry penalties ranging from 10 years to life in prison.
As police led suspects away, some people in the housing complex stood on their porches and waved, calling out their names.
As a symbolic gesture, Police Chief Jose Figueroa Sancha and Gov. Luis Fortuno painted over a mural at the complex that depicted one of the drug ring's purported leaders.
Sancha has estimated that 70 percent of killings in Puerto Rico are tied to drug trafficking.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press