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January 23, 2017Hartford, CTUnited StatesNarcotics, Contraband

ICE investigation shuts down multi-state heroin trafficking ring

Ring ran between Alabama, Connecticut, Rhode Island

HARTFORD, Conn. — Five people, including three aliens, were charged in federal court Monday with offenses related to a heroin trafficking ring spanning several states.

These charges resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Hartford (Connecticut) Police Department, the Connecticut State Police, with the assistance of the Baldwin County (Alabama) Sheriff’s Office.

The complaint charges the following individuals with possession with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, one kilogram or more of heroin:

  • Onel Arana-Gervacio, 39, a citizen of Mexico,
  • Modesto Barett-Medina, 47, a citizen of the Dominican Republic,
  • Erison Peralta, 39, a citizen of the Dominican Republic,
  • Luz Cruz and, 46, United States citizen,
  • Carol Amparo, 20, United States citizen.

The five defendants appeared Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna F. Martinez in Hartford. Arana, Barett, and Peralta were ordered detained. Cruz and Amparo were released on $50,000 bond.

The charges each carry mandatory terms of 10 years to life imprisonment. Cruz and Amparo are also charged with maintaining a drug-involved residence, an offense that carries a maximum term of 20 years imprisonment.

Court records indicate that on October 21, 2016, the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office in Alabama conducted a motor vehicle stop of a car hauler that was carrying a 2012 Chevrolet Malibu. A search of the Malibu revealed it contained a hidden compartment or trap, commonly used to conceal and transport illegal contraband, including narcotics, firearms and currency. The investigation revealed that the car was registered to Onel Arana-Gervacio.

The complaint further alleges that law enforcement officials obtained court authorization to install tracking devices on the Malibu and, between October 2016 and January 2017, HSI special agents observed it at various locations in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

On January 17, agents located the Malibu at 1091 Maple Avenue in Hartford. On January 20, surveillance officers observed activity on another vehicle, also found at the Maple Avenue residence, which was consistent with manipulating a mechanical hidden compartment. After removing two bags from that second vehicle and entering the residence, law enforcement next observed Arana depart the residence and place two duffel bags into a third vehicle and then drive off in that vehicle with Modesto Barett-Medina.

A short time later Hartford police pulled the third vehicle over. A search of that vehicle revealed no contraband. Immediately after stopping the third vehicle law enforcement sought a warrant to search the residence on Maple Avenue. Peralta, Cruz and her daughter, Amparo, were found inside the residence and the search revealed at least six kilograms of heroin, approximately 500 grams of cocaine and a finger press, which is used to process bulk quantities of heroin into 10-gram-bags known as fingers.

Agents also seized drug distribution materials, including sifters, grinders, scales, vacuum sealers and kilo wrappers, which were coated in heroin residue and field-tested positive for the presence of fentanyl. Federal special agents then searched the Malibu, which was located in the garage at the same residence, and recovered approximately $260,000 in cash from inside the vehicle’s trap.

A criminal complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are entitled to a fair trial at which it is the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated: 01/24/2017