Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday announced the arrests of more than 100 individuals in Puerto Rico as part of the biggest law enforcement corruption investigation in FBI history.
Indictments were unsealed in Puerto Rico against 89 police officers and 44 other individuals, who allegedly provided security in undercover drug deals for hundreds of dollars in payments. About 1,000 members of the FBI worked on the investigation, including 750 agents from around the United States who assisted in the arrests Wednesday morning.
“This department has one message for anyone willing to abuse the public trust for personal gain: you will be caught; you will be stopped; and you will be punished,” Holder said during a news conference at Justice Department headquarters. “The Department of Justice is committed to holding those who swear to protect and serve their fellow citizens accountable. In our work to root out corruption and safeguard public resources, we will follow the facts where they lead, and we will do so without fear or favor.”
Puerto Rico U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, who joined Holder at the news conference, said her U.S. Caribbean territory has a “major drug problem.” She said that law enforcement officials in the past have faced charges similar to those announced on Wednesday.
Rodríguez-Vélez, who has led the San Juan-based U.S. Attorney’s office since 2006, said the announcements have made Wednesday “a very sad day” in Puerto Rico.
“Badges were sold and honor was compromised for drug money many times during this investigation,” Rodríguez-Vélez said. “But today is also a day of hope in the fight against drug trafficking and the violence it generates in Puerto Rico.”
Holder and FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry of the Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch expressed pride in the ability of the bureau to involve hundreds of agents in an investigation without raising any eyebrows.
Henry said their success was the result of “good logistics.” Holder said the two-year investigation was “law enforcement at its best.”
“There was not one disclosure during the course of that investigation and that’s an indication of the seriousness with which this was taken and the professionalism in which this was conducted,” Holder said.
The announcement on Wednesday is the second time this week the DOJ has revealed a major public corruption investigation. On Monday, the DOJ announced the arrests of 11 individuals in Alabama — including four state lawmakers — as part of a probe into a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution that would legalize electronic bingo.
Middle District of Alabama U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001, was not in attendance at the Monday news conference because her office was mostly recused from the bingo probe.