Dominican Republic police use intelligence to dismantle two drug trafficking groups
By Dialogo October 09, 2014
Several months of intelligence gathering and investigation by the Dominican Republican National Directorate for Drug Control (DNCD) culminated in a series of arrests through September that dismantled two international drug trafficking gangs.
DNCD agents and officials with the Prosecutor’s Office arrested Santos Piantini Ramos, 54, and Carlos Manuel Martínez Vizcaíno, 58 – both alleged directors of gangs that recruited young couriers, known as “mules,” to transport cocaine and illicit substances.
The operations have crippled dangerous organizations that place young residents of the Dominican Republic at risk – and they demonstrate the reach and skill of the DNCD’s agents.
Ramos and Martínez Vizcaíno recruited young people to transport drugs
Dominican law enforcement agents collected detailed intelligence on the subjects – for example, taking photographs of Ramos, known as “Máximo,” in various provinces where his gang operated. Throughout their investigation, they built a detailed picture of how the criminal organizations worked.
The gangs allegedly recruited young people – male and female, including teenagers – to transport their drugs, paying between USD$700 and USD$5,000 per trip. When smuggling their contraband, the drug mules would either try to smuggle it, or tape it to their bodies, or carry it in suitcases with false bottoms. If a mule could carry a large amount of drugs in his or her stomach, Martínez Vizcaíno’s operatives referred to him as a “good eater.” A mule who arrived from another country was known as “the artist.”
The gangs had other code words as well, which they used to try to avoid detection by the police. They referred to a passport as a “little book.” New York City was referred to as “the towers,” and cocaine and heroin were known as “the restaurant” or “the little check.”
Such old tricks did little to deter Dominican security forces.
“The method of using mules for drug trafficking is not new, it is very old,” said Daniel Matul Romero, a security analyst at the University of Costa Rica. “It is increasingly difficult to use this method due to the elevated levels of control employed at airports.”
Martínez Vizcaíno, who uses the alias “El Viejo,” had a standard approach for smuggling drugs into the Dominican Republic – and out to the rest of the world.
El Viejo would pay for the young drug mules recruited by a suspected gang operative named Miguel Alexis Martínez Morrobel, also known as “Derlin” or “El Flaco”. Derlin’s mules traveled to Colombia, Perú, and Venezuela, usually for a week or two, where they would receive drugs to bring back to the Dominican Republic. There, El Viejo would send different mules to deliver the drugs to their final destinations – often in the United States or Europe.
DNCD agents captured El Viejo in the Venta de Herrera region on August 14. They arrested Derlin on the same day. They caught Máximo on September 7, as he drove to the Punta Cana airport. The agents also arrested one of the passengers, Pedro Celestino Richardson, who was allegedly carrying 75 small bags of cocaine.
Exploiting people who are financially desperate
Drug trafficking organizations often recruit people who are in dire financial straits to work as drug mules. Carrying drugs inside one’s body is dangerous, and can even cause death if the package breaks open while inside the mule’s body.
Aware that drug trafficking groups often rely on drug mules who are willing to carry heroin or cocaine inside their bodies, the DNCD has been monitoring airports for such operatives.
For example, on May 25, a group of DNCD agents arrested Carlos Leandro Colón Arias, an electrical engineer, at the Las Americas International Airport (AILA).
DNCD agents arrested Colón Arias after he de-boarded from a flight from Colombia. After conducting an investigation, they took him to the Armed Forces Central Hospital, where doctors performed an exploratory laparotomy and found 27 small bags filled with 770 grams of liquid heroin inside the stomach of Colón Arias.
On May 17, agents with the National Directorate for Drug Control arrested Johnny Omar Sánchez Girón, who is also known as “Moreno,” at AILA as he attempted to depart for New York City with 34 small bags of cocaine in his stomach. They had followed Sánchez Girón for several months as he worked as a mule for El Viejo’s gang, making several trips to Colombia. Máximo on September 7, as he drove to the Punta Cana airport.
“Dismantling these cells and arresting their leaders is indicative of how successful the police’s efforts have been against international criminal gangs,” Matul Romero said. “The control measures of the authorities are becoming more difficult to overcome.”
That is something very good in the Dominican Republic. Thank you I think it's very good, but I believe a bit more is needed the (DNCD) gets nothing by putting him in jail, how many have been sentenced and for how many years,. Let's stop kidding ourselves, here might makes right, what happened with the Mulata Segunda in Sabnete de Jasika, leave it alone