FBI Seizes Houses, Cars, Trucks Bought with Buried Drug Treasure
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ FBI agents on Friday seized luxurious homes, cars, and boats bought with $43 million unearthed from drums buried in a farm owned by a reputed drug kingpin, authorities said.
Agents from the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration confiscated property in Vega Baja, 35 miles east of San Juan, and two other Puerto Rican towns as part of an investigation launched March 10.
The probe began after authorities heard Vega Baja residents were using large amounts of cash to buy luxury items, including homes, cars, motorcycles, boats and jewelry.
The FBI said it has so far traced $11 million of the $43 million buried in a farm in Vega Baja allegedly belonging to a drug baron. Agents also have confiscated millions of dollars worth of property bought with the treasure.
The estimate of $43 million is three times higher than when reports of the buried treasure surfaced in April.
FBI spokesman Anibal Torres said Friday the 9.7-acre farm belonged to alleged cocaine kingpin Ramon Torres Gonzalez, who authorities say runs a ring that smuggles South American cocaine from the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico to the mainland United States.
He said criminal charges against Torres Gonzalez have not been filed and that an ivestigation is continuing. The FBI refused to say if it knows where he is.
″Ramon Torres Gonzalez is a narcotics importer that has been directly involved for many years in the importation of multi-kilo loads″ of cocaine between Puerto Rico and mainland United States, according to an FBI court document.
The document, filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico and released Friday, said that in early March, several residents ″sneaked″ into Torres Gonzalez’ farm and took money buried in 22 plastic drums.
″After these incidents the persons that stole the money commenced a big shopping spree wherein cars, houses, jewelry, motorcycles and other articles were purchased with the drug proceeds of Ramon Torres Gonzales,″ the FBI document states.
FBI spokeswoman Alina Bloom said FBI and DEA agents on Friday seized from the towns of Vega Baja, Dorado and Carolina dozens of cars, houses, trucks, bulldozers and motorcycles purchased with the money found in the farm.
Authorities said the farm had a helicopter launching pad used for drug trafficking.
An FBI press release said the seizure of property was supervised by the office of U.S. Attorney Daniel Lopez Romo.
Ms. Bloom said the value of the property seized Friday has not yet been determined. The FBI court document says $32 million of the $43 million unearthed from the farm is believed still in the possession of Torres Gonzalez.
It says $11 million was divided up among more than 10 people, and that more than $500,000 of the stolen cash has been returned since March 31 and dozens of cars and trucks, houses, real estate and jewelry had been recovered prior to Friday’s seizures.
The FBI said Torres Gonzalez ran a construction equipment company to front his narcotics activities and launder drug trafficking earnings. Since the investigation began, his farm and construction equipment has been consficated.
According to the FBI document, any property bought with the money is U.S. property because of a law on drug proceeds.
Torres Gonzalez served a one-year sentence in 1982 in Tallahasse, Fla., on charges of conspiracy and distribution of cocaine, the FBI documents says. It said Torres Gonzalez ran a ring in the 1970s out of New York that smuggled Peruvian cocaine.