NIANTIC, Conn. — In a massive drug enforcement operation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), more than 100 individuals were arrested early Wednesday in five states and Puerto Rico on state and federal charges related to the large-scale trafficking of heroin and cocaine from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico into and around southeastern Connecticut.
On the morning of April 3, more than 700 law enforcement officers and agents involved in the operation executed scores of federal and state arrests in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Puerto Rico. Fifty-three individuals were arrested on federal narcotics and money laundering charges and 50 on state narcotics and related charges. Additional defendants were previously arrested during the course of the investigation, and several individuals are still being sought by law enforcement. The arrests stem from a 15-month investigation that included the use of court-authorized wiretaps on 15 telephones, extensive physical surveillance and controlled purchases and seizures of cocaine and heroin.
"Drug trafficking organizations must be aggressively attacked and dismantled at every level," said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of HSI Boston. Foucart oversees HSI throughout New England. "Today we have stopped two criminal organizations from bringing significant quantities of heroin and cocaine into our communities in Connecticut and throughout New England. The result of this operation is nothing short of significant and it underscores what the people expect from law enforcement: keep drugs out of our neighborhoods. These arrests will keep the citizens of New England safer from the inevitable violence that drug trafficking brings, and chokes off a major drug stream into Connecticut - the largest our agency has ever uncovered in the state's history."
As alleged in criminal complaints filed in association with the arrests and unsealed April 3 in U.S. District Court in New Haven, this investigation was initiated in early 2012 to combat narcotics-trafficking and money laundering in New London, Conn. The investigation revealed two overlapping conspiracies centered in New London County, one involving heroin distribution and one involving cocaine distribution. The two conspiracies employed a variety of methods to import narcotics from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico into southeastern Connecticut, and involved a network of individuals who distributed wholesale amounts of drugs to customers in New London County. In association with today's arrests, law enforcement officers seized narcotics, firearms, cash and vehicles.
"We allege that the defendants arrested today were responsible for a very large percentage of the heroin and cocaine available for street sale in New London County," said U.S. Attorney David B. Fein, District of Connecticut. "As is clear from this extensive and far-reaching investigation and today's coordinated operation, we in federal, state and local law enforcement are committed to working together, across state and federal borders, to disrupt the flow of illegal narcotics and to identifying and seizing assets purchased with the proceeds of drug trafficking."
"The U.S. Secret Service is proud to have participated in the multi-agency criminal investigation leading to the arrests of over 100 suspects involved in this money laundering and narcotics scheme," said Steven Hughes, special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service, New York Field Office. "Through a collaborative approach with New York and Connecticut based Secret Service offices and in conjunction with Homeland Security Investigations, other federal agencies, Connecticut State Police, as well as several local police departments in the New London-area, this case exemplifies how cooperation and strong partnerships have allowed us to focus our resources and respond quickly to uncover and prevent these types of crimes, whether they originate within or outside our borders."
"This law enforcement operation is the culmination of a long-term investigation that was initiated by members of the New London Police Department, Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Secret Service," said New London Police Chief Margret Ackley. "The New London Police Department has dedicated numerous officers to this investigation, and an operation of this size is not possible without the assistance of our federal partners. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the dedicated officers of the New London Police Department and all of our federal partners for making this law enforcement operation possible and actively working to make our community a safer place."
According to the charges related to the heroin conspiracy, the HSI-led investigation revealed that Luis Ariel Capellan Maldonado, aka Ariel, regularly procured multi-kilogram quantities of heroin from the Dominican Republic and worked with several individuals to distribute the drug in southeastern Connecticut. Operating out of his apartment building on Hawthorne Drive in New London, Capellan Maldonado supplied customers with raw heroin, often in quantities of 50 to 150 grams. He also had access to kilogram-quantities of cocaine and sometimes supplied cocaine to wholesale cocaine distributors in New London.
The investigation further revealed that Capellan Maldonado coordinated the shipment of heroin, and sometimes cocaine, via human couriers from the Dominican Republic to the United States. He also obtained heroin from other sources in New York City and Rhode Island. Capellan Maldonado, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, routinely sent thousands of dollars in drug proceeds back to the Dominican Republic. The investigation further revealed that one of Capellan Maldonado's associates, Enrique Luciano, aka Ipi, supplied wholesale quantities of heroin and cocaine to Miguel Morales, aka Neow, and others, who distributed heroin and cocaine to other wholesale distributors and street-level sellers in and around New London.
In the cocaine conspiracy, the investigation revealed that Pedro Rivera, aka Cheito, of Groton, Conn., regularly obtained kilogram quantities of cocaine from sources in Puerto Rico. Rivera's trusted associate, Luis Zayas, aka Guichan, of Waterford, Conn., also was involved in the procurement of cocaine. Rivera, Zayas and their associates used a variety of methods to transport the cocaine from Puerto Rico to the United States, including the U.S. mail. Pedro Rivera and Zayas supplied other individuals, including Frankie Rivera, who used his business, PR Speedshop on Westwood Avenue in New London, to sell cocaine to street-level customers.
The investigation also identified Juan G. Cheverez, aka Guinchi, of Groton as a narcotics trafficker who received kilogram-quantities of cocaine in the mail from Axel Matta Figueroa, aka Joelito, in Puerto Rico. At times, Cheverez also obtained cocaine from Luis Zayas. Cheverez was assisted by others with distributing cocaine around New London and in transporting money to Puerto Rico.
The investigation further revealed that Oscar Valentin, aka Tato, and his employees sold narcotics supplied by Pedro Rivera and others to customers from a garage Valentin managed at the intersection of Walker Street and Bristol Street in New London.
The federal defendants arrested today in Connecticut were transported to U.S. District Court in New Haven. Based on the quantity of narcotics involved in these conspiracies, the government is seeking pre-trial detention on the vast majority of the defendants who, if convicted, face mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment of five or ten years.
In addition to the defendants arrested today, during the course of the investigation, three individuals were previously arrested and charged with federal firearms offenses, and five individuals were previously arrested and charged with state narcotics violations.
The ongoing HSI-led investigation is being conducted, along with the U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Air and Marine; Connecticut State Police; New London Police Department; Norwich Police Department; Waterford Police Department; Groton Town Police Department; East Lyme Police Department; and Putnam Police Department. The U.S. Marshals Service; ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations; Drug Enforcement Administration; HSI Assistant AttachÃ©, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; HSI Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Resident Office; Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation; Connecticut Department of Correction, Parole and Community Services; and the Groton City, Willimantic, New Haven and Bristol Police Departments have provided valuable assistance to the investigation.
The federal case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alina P. Reynolds, Sarah P. Karwan and Henry K. Kopel. The state cases are being prosecuted by the State's Attorney for the New London Judicial District and Senior Assistant State's Attorneys Paul Narducci and Stephen Carney.