Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that WILLIAM VAZQUEZ-BAEZ, a former member of the Puerto Rico Police Department (“PRPD”), pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court in connection with his years of corrupt assistance to a criminal enterprise known as La Organización de Narcotraficantes Unidos (“La ONU”), including his participation in the May 9, 2007, murder of Anthony Castro-Carrillo in Carolina, Puerto Rico. U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman accepted the defendant’s guilty plea.
U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “William Vazquez-Baez perverted his official position for personal gain, and in so doing brought deadly violence into the homes of the very people he was sworn to protect. Today’s plea represents a milestone in holding Vazquez-Baez responsible for the cold-blooded, murderous violence he wrought.”
According to the allegations in the Information and other filings and statements made in court:
From approximately 1994 until his arrest in connection with this case in May 2017, VAZQUEZ-BAEZ was an active police officer with the PRPD. From in or about 2004 until in or about 2016, members of La ONU shipped thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York, including cocaine that was then distributed out of a Bronx daycare center, and protected their territory and trade through numerous acts of violence. Members of La ONU paid VAZQUEZ-BAEZ a salary to corruptly use his position as a police officer to further the interests of La ONU. For example, VAZQUEZ-BAEZ provided narcotics and intelligence, including information obtained from the police narcotics unit. Members of La ONU would also contact VAZQUEZ-BAEZ, among others, when transporting large quantities of cocaine within the San Juan, Puerto Rico, area to ensure the shipment avoided areas of police activity. VAZQUEZ-BAEZ also distributed payments to other corrupt police officers who assisted La ONU.
VAZQUEZ-BAEZ also assisted La ONU in acts of violence:
In or about 2006 or 2007, VAZQUEZ-BAEZ alerted La ONU members that Freddy Mendez-Rivera, a local resident, had complained to police about drug dealing occurring in his neighborhood, which led to members of La ONU kidnapping and then killing Mendez-Rivera. Around the same time, VAZQUEZ-BAEZ alerted a senior member of La ONU that the kidnapping was being reported over the police radio. VAZQUEZ-BAEZ advised that, because the fact that Mendez-Rivera had spoken with the police was known throughout the Carolina Narcotics division, it was important that the body never be discovered. When later updated about what had happened, VAZQUEZ-BAEZ laughed and remarked, in substance, that Mendez-Rivera would not be giving the police information any further.
On or about May 9, 2007, members of La ONU hired VAZQUEZ-BAEZ to participate in the murder of Anthony Castro-Carrillo in Carolina, Puerto Rico, in exchange for a cash bonus. VAZQUEZ-BAEZ and members of La ONU stormed Castro-Carrillo’s residence while dressed as police officers and shot and killed him.
In or about 2007, VAZQUEZ-BAEZ delivered a confidential informant, who was in VAZQUEZ-BAEZ’s custody, to members of La ONU, who pretended to be other police officers. Those members of La ONU then shot and killed the informant.
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VAZQUEZ-BAEZ, 52, pled guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d), which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to commit murder for hire, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1958, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The statutory maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.
VAZQUEZ-BAEZ is scheduled to be sentenced before Judge Furman on December 2, 2021, at 3:00 p.m.
Ms. Strauss praised the investigative work of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the New York City Police Department. Ms. Strauss also thanked the United States Attorney’s Office in the District of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Police Department for their support in this ongoing investigation.
The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Violent and Organized Crime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lara Pomerantz, Justin Rodriguez, and Andrew Thomas are in charge of the prosecution.
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