13 Individuals Charged with Possession and Distribution of Opioids

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – On May 24, 2022, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment charging seven women and six men from the municipality of Ponce with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, and a former doctor in medicine, defendant Julia Torres-Ortiz, with health care fraud, announced W. Stephen Muldrow, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is in charge of the investigation.

The indictment alleges that from January 2017, and continuing through April 2021, the defendants knowingly and intentionally conspired to possess with intent to distribute Oxycodone (commonly known as Percocet) and Alprozolam (commonly known as Xanax). Defendant Romualdo Matos-Rodríguez distributed the narcotics from his residence in Ponce, PR, and other places nearby, all for significant financial gain and profit.

Co-conspirators would buy pills at pharmacies and return them to defendant Romualdo Matos-Rodríguez for further distribution at his house and other nearby places.

The defendants are:

Leximara Santiago-Martínez

Edna Caridad Cruz-Vélez

Solmarie Gautier-Díaz

Ramón Costa-Pérez

David Santos-Soto

José Manuel Santos-Bodon, a/k/a “Manuel”

Gloria Elena Mercado-Millán

José Alberto Ortiz-Flores, a/k/a “Berto”

Jessenia Díaz-Torres

Edgardo Iván García-Santiago, a/k/a “Meru”

Naomi Rosario-López

Regina Santiago-Martínez, a/k/a “Gina”

Defendant Romualdo Matos-Rodríguez is facing a forfeiture allegation of his property, a residence located at Urb. Villa Dos Ríos, Yagüez Street, in Ponce, PR.

Defendant Julia Torres-Ortiz is facing two counts of health care fraud for prescribing medications, which were then paid by Triple-S Advantage, a medical insurance plan, using her expired DEA Certificate of Registration, Medical License, and Controlled Substance License. Defendant Torres-Ortiz had a National Provider Identifier (NPI), which Triple-S Advantage used to transmit payment for medication prescribed by her, despite lacking legal authority to do so.

Triple-S Advantage is a Medicare Advantage (MA) Plan. MA plans pay for claims submitted by providers for services provided to Medicare beneficiaries. The NPI is a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standard. It is a unique umber issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to identify a specific individual health care provider, including a specific physician, like defendant Torres-Ortiz.

“Prescribing and distributing opioids without regard to the potentially lethal consequences simply cannot be tolerated,” said W. Stephen Muldrow, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to hold accountable criminals who scheme to profit from prescribing medically unnecessary drugs.”

“DEA’s objective is clear, the DEA will bring all it has to bear to make our communities safer and healthier, and to reverse the devastating trends of drug-related violence and overdoses plaguing our communities,” said Renita Foster, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA, Caribbean Division. “We will not rest until we eradicate drug violence.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) and Deputy Chief of the Asset Recovery and Money Laundering Unit Myriam Y. Fernández-González, and AUSA Manuel Muñiz-Lorenzi are in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted on the conspiracy charge, the defendants face a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. If convicted of health care fraud, Julia Torres-Ortiz faces up to 10 years in prison.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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