Alexis Candelario-Santana, 42, was sentenced today to life in prison for murdering eight people and an unborn child and attempting to murder 19 others during a mass shooting at a Puerto Rico nightclub in 2009.
Candelario-Santana and his co-defendant David Oquendo-Rivas were convicted by a federal jury on March 8, 2013. Candelario-Santana was convicted of 28 counts of committing violent crimes in aid of racketeering activity, one count of racketeering conspiracy, nine counts of using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and one count of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. Oquendo-Rivas was convicted of 28 counts of committing violent crimes in aid of racketeering activity and nine counts of using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. These offenses occurred on Oct. 17, 2009, in what became known as the “La Tómbola Massacre.”
In all, eight people and an 8-month unborn child were killed as a result of the gunfire at La Tómbola, and 19 other victims were shot and injured. The individuals killed included Candelario-Santana’s godson, Rondón-Feliciano’s stepson, and Candelario-Santana’s cousin.
Based on the government’s charging documents, only Candelario-Santana was potentially eligible for the death penalty. On March 23, 2013, the same jury that determined the guilt of Candelario-Santana and Oquendo-Rivas was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the question of whether Candelario-Santana should be sentenced to death or life in prison. As a result, under the Federal Death Penalty Act, Candelario-Santana was required to be sentenced to life in prison.
According to the evidence presented at trial, from approximately 1993 through 2003, Candelario-Santana was a leader of the drug trafficking organization that operated principally in Sabana Seca, Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. The organization purchased drugs in bulk, processed and packaged the drugs, and sold them at Sabana Seca through numerous sellers, runners and enforcers under Candelario-Santana’s control. The organization sold crack, cocaine, heroin and marijuana, and members of the organization routinely possessed firearms to protect its drug points. In addition, the evidence introduced at trial established that, between 1995 and 2001, Candelario-Santana either personally killed, or ordered others to kill, 13 individuals whom he viewed as threats to his drug trafficking organization or as being disloyal members of the drug trafficking organization.