BISMARCK -- A 23-year-old man indicted in a large-scale drug conspiracy based in Puerto Rico but known to have operated in North Dakota was arrested in Bismarck early Tuesday morning.
Christian H. Rivera-Rivera, also known as “Albino,” was arrested at a construction site about 6:30 a.m. without problems by members of the U.S. Marshals Service’s High Plains Fugitive Task Force with assistance from Bismarck-Mandan’s Metro Area Narcotics Task Force.
Rivera-Rivera was arrested as the result of information received from an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Rivera-Rivera had an initial appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon in Bismarck where he pleaded not guilty and was held in custody pending a detention hearing.
Rivera-Rivera, among 27 co-defendants, was indicted in federal court in Puerto Rico on July 12. Simultaneous to the arrest operation in Bismarck, U.S. Marshals in Puerto Rico arrested 25 of the other 26 defendants. During those arrests, automatic weapons, large quantities of cocaine and cash were seized.
The defendants were believed to be part of the Benito-Lopez violent drug trafficking organization.
The alleged drug conspiracy is to have occurred in Puerto Rico and the continental United States.
According to officials, the Benito-Lopez organization obtained large quantities of drugs from multiple sources, including a government official from the nation of Haiti.
“This arrest was a well-coordinated effort to remove from the community a man alleged to have committed serious crimes with a dangerous group of drug traffickers," Acting U.S. Marshal Dan Orr of North Dakota said. "This group is not known to have operated here in North Dakota, but the danger for that to occur has now been prevented. I’m very proud of the work our task force officers did today.”
Rivera-Rivera faces five felony drug counts in federal court, involving heroin, cocaine, a cocaine base and marijuana.
The High Plains Fugitive Task Force is led by the U.S. Marshals Service. Other member agencies include U.S. Border Patrol, Cass County Sheriff’s, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, North Dakota Probation and Parole, Fargo Police Department, West Fargo Police Department, Moorhead Police Department and Grand Forks Police Department
Barry Amundson of the Forum News Service contributed to this report