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COLD CASE HEATS UP: Feds Indict 4 Men Who Stole 125 Guns From Police Shooting Range in 2010

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SAN JUAN – A federal grand jury on Wednesday returned a five-count indictment charging four convicted felons with conspiring to rob a police firing range of its weapons in 2010 – and when they pulled it off it was the biggest weapons heist in Puerto Rico history, according to U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Velez.

The object of the conspiracy was to commit a robbery at the Police of Puerto Rico (POPR) shooting range, Rodríguez-Vélez said.

The robbery took place on October 26, 2010. The co-conspirators subdued the on-duty police officers and stole the POPR’s firearms stored in the vault to subsequently illegally sell them for significant financial gain and profit, she said.

The co-conspirators are: José Padilla-Galarza, aka “Joey;” Gilberto Ramos-Quiñonez, aka “Bolillo;” Ramón Santiago-Ortega, aka “Pucho;” and Guill Reabing-Padilla, aka “Gil”. Padilla-Galarza was a police officer approximately 20 years ago.

All the men are convicted felons in possession of firearms, a violation of federal law, Rodríguez-Vélez said.

According to the indictment, the men used to visit the Isla de Cabra Shooting Range in order to become familiar with the personnel, their shifts, and the layout of the facility.

The men used a white Ford Crown Victoria or Mercury Grand Marquis attached with decals of the POPR to give it the appearance of an official POPR patrol car, authorities said.

Members of the conspiracy dressed as POPR police officers, some in regular police uniforms and others in tactical uniforms.

The 125 firearms stolen, including the two pistols taken from duty officers were: 40 AR-15 rifles, 24 shotguns, nine 9mm carbines, one MP3 rifle, and 49 pistols.

It was the biggest firearms robbery in the history of Puerto Rico.

“The potential harm that can result from the movement of illegal firearms through Puerto Rico cannot be overstated,” Rodríguez-Vélez said. “The unlawful trafficking in firearms is a serious crime that intensifies the violence that is plaguing so many communities around us. This investigation is a testament to the collective resolve of federal law enforcement to stem the flow of illegal firearms.”

If found guilty, the men face prison terms of up to 20 years for the Hobbs Act violations and a minimum of seven years up to life for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence (robbery) with the brandishing enhancement.

“I would like to recognize the commitment and hard work of the investigators and prosecutors who brought this case to a conclusion,” said ATF Miami Field Division Special Agent in Charge Carlos Canino. “We will never stop investigating these types of heinous crimes. Not for five days not for five years. ATF Puerto Rico is committed to the fight against violent crime and firearms trafficking.”

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Max Pérez-Bouret.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is in charge of the investigation with the collaboration of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI).

The Hobbs Act is an anti-racketeering law passed by Congress in 1946 and since has been used in prosecuting public corruption, labor management and commercial disputes involving extortion, and labor union corruption.

Criminal indictments are only charges and not in and amongst themselves evidence of guilt, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. A person is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 50 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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