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Top Department of Justice award recognizes federal, state, local law enforcement efforts along the 'Heroin Highway'

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Sixteen federal, state and local Rhode Island law enforcement agents and officers — including a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations — were recognized today with a top Department of Justice award for their achievements significantly impacting the trafficking of heroin along the 'Heroin Highway.' A federal prosecutor was also recognized. This notorious stretch of highway, running from I-195 East from Providence to Cape Cod, Mass., has been used for many years to transport heroin to street level drug dealers and drug users.

The sixteen law enforcement officers and agents and a federal prosecutor were presented with the top 2012 New England Regional Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) award for outstanding contributions to cooperative law enforcement and to the OCDETF program.

Over the past two years, law enforcement agents and officers from HSI; Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Rhode Island DEA Drug Task Force; Rhode Island State Police; and the Providence, Warwick, East Providence, Newport, Pawtucket and Cranston Police Departments coordinated efforts and employed a variety of techniques to gather intelligence and information to identify heroin drug traffickers operating along the Heroin Highway. To date, 'Operation Heroin Highway' has resulted in the arrest of 32 individuals, ranging from street level drug dealers to high level Mexican, Dominican and Guatemalan heroin traffickers. Law enforcement has seized more than 5 kilos of heroin, more than 6 kilos of cocaine and assets totaling at least $609,000.

It is believed that the individuals arrested during Operation Heroin Highway were supplying as much as 60 percent of the heroin being distributed along I-195 East from Providence to Cape Cod.

"People ask, why do we continue this war on drugs," said U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha, District of Rhode Island. "Because all illegal drugs, and especially heroin, ruin people's lives, and not only the lives of the people using them. They lay waste to human potential, and cause violent and other crime. As a result of the outstanding work of the agents, officers, and attorneys being honored today, the major source for heroin distribution in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts has been significantly reduced. Law enforcement at its very best."

"I commend all the federal, state and local law enforcement agents and officers for their tireless efforts to combat drug trafficking in our communities and for receiving this prestigious award," said J. Michael Netherland, deputy special agent in charge of HSI Boston. "These drug traffickers commit violent crimes and terrorize our neighborhoods. Disrupting and dismantling their activities is a top priority for HSI. As "Operation Heroin Highway" clearly demonstrates, we are committed to working with our law enforcement partners on this important task."

"Heroin destroys individuals, families and communities," said John J. Arvanitis, special agent in charge of DEA's New England Field Division. "DEA and our partners are committed to dismantling criminal organizations that attempt to flood our neighborhoods with heroin. We congratulate these agents and officers and prosecutors recognized today for their hard work, dedication and selflessness. These enforcement successes are a direct result of the combined efforts of DEA, along with our state and local partners."

The Department of Justice's OCDETF program was established in 1982 as a multi-agency, nationwide effort to pursue intelligence-driven, coordinated multi-jurisdictional investigations of criminal organizations trafficking drugs and laundering the illicit proceeds of crime. The OCDETF program forms the centerpiece of the Department of Justice's counter-narcotics strategy and is also the platform through which the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Treasury pursue complex drug and drug-related money laundering investigations. Through the OCDETF program, these three executive departments use prosecutor-led, multi-agency task forces to combat high-priority national and international organized criminal organizations.

Recognized for their outstanding achievements during Operation Heroin Highway and to the OCDETF program are:

  • HSI Special Agent Michael Carvalho;
  • DEA Special Agent Kevin Eaton;
  • DEA Special Agent Dave Carnevale;
  • DEA Special Agent Alex Koumanelis;
  • DEA Special Agent James McCormack;
  • DEA Special Agent Robyn Meletis;
  • DEA Analyst Andrea Metz;
  • DEA Drug Task Force Officer Dennis Smith, Pawtucket Police Department;
  • DEA Drug Task Force Officer Mike Naylor, Newport Police Department;
  • DEA Drug Task Force Officer Robert Page, Warwick Police Department;
  • DEA Drug Task Force Officer Mike Masaitis, East Providence Police Department;
  • DEA Drug Task Force Officer Juan Robles, Providence Police Department;
  • DEA Drug Task Force Officer Dennis Fleming, Rhode Island State Police;
  • Det. Darren Ellinwood, East Providence Police Department;
  • Sgt. Diogo Mello, East Providence Police Department;
  • Lt. Russ Henry, Cranston Police Department; and
  • Assistant U.S. Attorney Adi Goldstein, Deputy Criminal Chief, District of Rhode Island.


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