(Gerald López Cepero)

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands will have more agents than ever before in its history. 

FBI Special agent in charge Douglas Leff said yesterday that the FBI in Washington approved a recent request to have more agents on the island.

 At a press conference following an FBI operation in Humacao, Leff said that the FBI Central Office has recognized the need to address risks for  Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and their importance for the rest of the United States.

 Leff stressed that the FBI (in Washington) has assigned additional agents “to our division that will arrive soon," and added that the regional division will have more agents than ever before “in the history of our division."

Leff did not specify the number of agents assigned or available, due to security reasons. He only said that although he cannot disclose the number, it is a historic number of FBI agents. Nor did he say when exactly those agents would report to his division, based in San Juan.

He indicated that he has discretion over agents geographical distribution and the type of cases they will investigate.

"Additional resources will allow us to carry out more operations with state, federal and municipal agents," said Leff. "We believe that people will notice the efforts soon."

Last month, when shootings in broad daylight and amid the federal government's shutdown generated alarm regarding public safety, Leff accepted that there was a security crisis on the island, and stated that his agency was one of those that needed more agents.

 Back then, other law enforcement agencies - such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) - recognized the need to have more officers on the island. The U.S. Attorney for Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez said then that her office also needed more personnel.

Last week, Rodríguez told El Nuevo Día that she was assigned five additional prosecutors who will work in the new Weapons Unit in charge of gun trafficking cases. 

"We are going to need more (personnel) to develop initiatives," Rodríguez said yesterday, who also referred to the operation related to drug trafficking in Humacao.

"As in this case, gangs are not concentrated in one place," she said. "These resources, I think are great news so we have more agents that can complement state officers."

The operation in Humacao

The FBI led an operation that led to 35 individuals charged with drug trafficking as members of a dangerous organization.

Last month, at state level, seven of those defendants were already found guilty of the murder of police sergeant Luis Meléndez, that happened in Humacao in 2016.

According to a federal grand jury indictment, “beginning in or about the year 2011, the organization distributed crack, heroin, cocaine, marihuana,Oxycodone (commonly known as Percocet) and Alprazolam (commonly known as Xanax),” the Dr. Pedro J. Palou and  Los Jardines de Oriente Public Housing Projects and other areas in San Juan.

The defendants face sentences of 10 years and up to life in prison. 

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