A woman accused of selling drugs and facilitating drug deals in her Puerto Rican apartment as part of a multimillion dollar drug trafficking ring was arrested Wednesday by federal agents in Campbell.
Nilsa Sanchez-Rivera, 51, was apprehended by Youngstown Drug Enforcement Agents early Wednesday at a residence on Jackson Street, Youngstown DEA Agent in Charge Bob Balzanno said.
Balzanno said his office was contacted to make the arrest but the investigation stemmed from the DEA in Puerto Rico.
Sanchez-Rivera pleaded not guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Youngstown to five federal charges of conspiring to deal drugs and aiding and abetting heroin, cocaine, crack, marijuana, Percocet and Xanax distribution. Sanchez-Rivera is one of 139 who were indicted Wednesday for being part of three drug trafficking rings inside public housing complexes in the central Puerto Rican city of Cagus.
Sanchez-Rivera’s alleged ring is accused of controlling all drug distribution points in the Gautier Benitez Public Housing. Charges allege they distributed drugs between 2005 and 2011 and, if convicted, will be forced to pay back $17 million.
U.S. Attorneys in Puerto Rico said they were unsure why Sanchez-Rivera was in Campbell. Sanchez-Rivera’s only local criminal history involves a 1997 speeding ticket on Interstate 76 in Austintown, according to court records. Rivera-Sanchez was listed as living in New York City at the time.
Sanchez-Rivera, according to charges, acted as a drug dealer and facilitator for the drug ring. The charges allege she used her apartment prosecutors called “drug laboratories” inside the Gautier Benitez Public Housing Project to store and package drugs, hide dealers from police and rival gang members and deliver drug money to other gang members.
Facilitators also served as intermediaries during drug deals and acted as a messenger for the group, charges say.
The gang used walkie-talkies to communicate, had enforcers that used violence to intimidate other drug trafficking rings and to punish their own members.