Home News Stories 2010 October Operation Guard Shack
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Operation Guard Shack

Our massive public corruption operation leads to 129 arrests in San Juan.

Operation Guard Shack
Historic Takedown in Puerto Rico


A special agent tracks progress of operation
A special agent tracks the progress of the operation. Gallery: Operation Guard Shack

Early this morning the FBI launched a massive public corruption takedown in San Juan, Puerto Rico, as our agents fanned out across the island to begin arresting 133 subjects—the majority of them police officers.

In what is likely the largest police corruption case in the FBI’s history, nearly 1,000 Bureau personnel from 50 of our 56 field offices were in San Juan for the takedown.

By late morning, as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney for Puerto Rico Rosa Rodriguez-Velez, and FBI officials were announcing the operation at a press conference in Washington, members of our Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) and SWAT operators had already arrested 129 subjects in a seamless and successful operation.

The colors on a map of Puerto Rico represent how cases were divided into tactical operations
The colors on a map of Puerto Rico represent how cases were divided into tactical operations.

Those charged with drug trafficking crimes and the use of a firearm in the commission of those crimes include 61 officers from the Puerto Rico Police Department, 16 officers from other municipal police departments, a dozen Puerto Rico Department of Corrections officers, members of the National Guard, and two U.S. Army soldiers. They all face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

“The actions of these individuals proved they were not worthy of the title of public servant,” said Luis Fraticelli, special agent in charge of our San Juan office. “They violated the public’s trust by using their authority for personal gain.”

The case, dubbed Operation Guard Shack, began more than two years ago, when then-FBI Special Agent Jose Figueroa Sancha began an investigation into corrupt San Juan police officers.

One of our undercover agents posing as a dealer selling multiple kilos of cocaine put the word out that he needed security during drug deals. Many of those who responded were cops. They actively took part in the transactions by carrying weapons and patting down the drug buyers—who were actually FBI informants. For their protection efforts, the cops were paid between $500 and $4,000 for each drug deal. In all, more than $500,000 was paid in protection money.

FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry discusses the operation with reporters at a press conference in Washington, D.C.

FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry
discusses the operation with reporters at a
press conference in Washington, D.C.

Figueroa Sancha—now chief of the Puerto Rico Police Department—knew of the continuing investigation and said from the FBI command post this morning, “All the officers arrested during today’s takedown did not honor or value the significance of working for the Puerto Rico Police Department.”

The operation began at 3 a.m., when 65 tactical teams hit the streets. But the takedown represented the work of more than just HRT and SWAT. On hand were a range of Bureau personnel—crisis negotiators, evidence response team members, canines and their handlers, and some 80 medical personnel from first responders and nurses to a trauma surgeon and a veterinarian.

And none of those people or their equipment—including armored Humvees, helicopters, and 250 rental cars—would have been in place if not for the logistical experts who worked around the clock in the days leading up to the takedown.

“A lot of planning went into this,” Fraticelli said, “and a lot of very capable people ‘what if’d’ the operation in every conceivable way.”

“This case sends a powerful message,” said Special Agent Alex Zappe, who worked the investigation from the beginning. “Corruption among our public officials—especially police officers—cannot be tolerated.”

- Press release
- Remarks by Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry