News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 25, 2007

19 Charged in Multi-State Drug Trafficking Ring
Several kilograms of cocaine sent through U.S. Mail seized during investigation

JAN 25 -- June W. Stansbury, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in New England and Kevin J. O’Connor, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that a federal grand jury sitting in Hartford has returned an eight-count Indictment charging 19 individuals with various narcotics offenses involving the large-scale distribution of cocaine and heroin in Hartford, Bridgeport, Fall River, Massachusetts, and other cities throughout the northeastern United States. The Indictment was returned on June 29, 2006, and remained under seal to allow for the arrest of the charged individuals. The case was subsequently unsealed, and, earlier this month, two of the remaining three fugitives were arrested. To date, 18 of the 19 charged defendants have been arrested. Two of the defendants have pleaded guilty.

The charges stem from an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) investigation dubbed “Operation Ragdoll,” which was spearheaded by the Drug Enforcement Administration in Hartford. As alleged in the Indictment, from January 2006 through June 20, 2006, the lead target of the investigation, LUIS JOEL SOTO-SOLIVAN, also known as “The 27,” ran a drug trafficking operation based in Fall River, Massachusetts, which supplied narcotics to various distributors in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania. Alleged distributors include co-defendants, SAMUEL MARTINEZ, also known as “Muelo” and “Sammy,” in Hartford, Connecticut; JIMMY VALENTIN, in Brockton, Massachusetts; ANDRES HERNANDEZ, also known as “El Pelu” and “Andy,” in Rochester, New York, and DOMINGO GUZMAN, also known as “Mingo,” in Bridgeport, Connecticut. In addition, during this time period, DOMINGO GUZMAN allegedly operated his own drug trafficking network based in Bridgeport that supplied narcotics to various wholesale distributors in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, including co-defendants SOTO-SOLIVAN in Fall River; BANGER VERGARA, also known as “Valdil” and “Bangel,” in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and MARCOS RIVAS, also known as “El Negro,” in Pennsylvania.

According to the Indictment, CARMELO RONDON FELICIANO, also known as “Panzon,” of Puerto Rico, supplied SOTO-SOLIVAN and DOMINGO GUZMAN with quantities of heroin and cocaine. One method that RONDON FELICIANO allegedly used to ship narcotics was to send them from Puerto Rico to the continental United States using the Express Mail service provided by the United States Postal Service. The Indictment alleges that, from February 2006 through June 20, 2006, FELICIANO and other suppliers sent at least 15 Express Mail packages believed to contain controlled substances to SOTO-SOLIVAN and DOMINGO GUZMAN. On June 1, 2006 and June 15, 2006, law enforcement officers with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the United States Postal Inspection Service intercepted and seized two of these Express mail packages. The June 1 package was sent to SOTO-SOLIVAN at 25B Pleasant View, Fall River, Massachusetts and contained two separately-wrapped kilograms of cocaine, and approximately 250 grams of a non-narcotic, cutting agent commonly used as a dilutant with cocaine. The June 15 package was sent to DOMINGO GUZMAN at 19 Seeley Street, Bridgeport, Connecticut, and contained two separately-wrapped kilograms of cocaine.

The investigation involved the use of wiretaps on cellular telephones used by SOTO-SOLIVAN and DOMINGO GUZMAN, as well as the controlled purchase of various quantities of heroin and crack cocaine from both of these individuals.

The Indictment charges the following 19 individuals with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and distribution of, cocaine:

LUIS JOEL SOTO-SOLIVAN, also known as “The 27,” age 34, of 275 Colony Street, Fall River, Massachusetts;

DOMINGO GUZMAN, also known as “Mingo,” age 30, of 355 Chamberlain Avenue, Bridgeport;

AUREA CASIANO, age 53, of Chicago, Illinois;

EDGARDO DIAZ, also known as “Galdy” and “Orejas,” age 33, of Puerto Rico;

CARMELO RONDON FELICIANO, also known as “Panzon,” of Puerto Rico;

MOISES FIGUEROA, also known as “Indio,” of Puerto Rico;

JOEL GUZMAN, age 32, of 106 Judson Place, Bridgeport;

ANDRES HERNANDEZ, also known as “El Pelu” and “Andy,” age 31, of 58 Dodge Street, Rochester, New York;

SAMUEL MARTINEZ, also known as “Muelo” and “Sammy,” age 30, of Hartford;

MARCOS RIVAS, also known as “El Negro,”

SHIRLEY RIVERA, also known as “Sheila,” 29, of 355 Chamberlain Avenue, Bridgeport;

ANGEL SANTIAGO, also known as “Mambru,” age 34, of 258 Pleasant View, Fall River;

HECTOR SANTIAGO, also known as “Pito,” age 32, of Hartford;

JOSE SANTIAGO, also known as “Neylom,” age 31, of Brockton, Massachusetts;

ANGEL SOTO, age 30, of 275 County Road, Fall River;

WILMARY TORRES, age 30; of 25B Pleasant View, Fall River;

WINDY TORRES; age 27, of 7D Pleasant View, Fall River;

JIMMY VALENTIN; age 29, of Brockton, and

BANGER VERGARA, also known as “Valdil” and “Bangel,” age 31, of Holyoke, Massachusetts.

In addition to the 19 defendants charged in the Indictment, a criminal forfeiture count seeks forfeiture of narcotics proceeds and items used to facilitate narcotics trafficking, including more than $100,000 in cash and four separate vehicles with a collective value of more than $100,000.

The DEA in Connecticut arrested SOTO-SOLIVAN, DOMINGO GUZMAN, JOEL GUZMAN, HERNANDEZ, RIVERA, JOSE SANTIAGO, SOTO, ANGEL SANTIAGO, WINDY TORRES, WILMARY TORRES, VALENTIN, MARTINEZ and HECTOR SANTIAGO in June and July 2006. The DEA in Puerto Rico arrested RONDON FELICIANO, FIGUEROA and DIAZ in September and October 2006.

The DEA in Connecticut arrested VERGARA in Massachusetts on January 9, 2007, as he was appearing in state court to face trial on unrelated drug charges. VERGARA was arraigned on the charge on January 16 before United States Magistrate Judge Donna F. Martinez. After a detention hearing, Judge Martinez entered an order detaining VERGARA until trial.

On January 12, 2007, law enforcement officers in Chicago, Illinois, located CASIANO and served her with the federal arrest warrant from this case. CASIANO was arraigned on the charge yesterday, January 23, in New Haven federal court before United States Magistrate Judge Joan G. Margolis. CASIANO was released on bond pending trial.

MARCOS RIVAS is currently being sought by law enforcement.

As to SOTO-SOLIVAN, DOMINGO GUZMAN, and RONDON FELICIANO, the Indictment charges that the conspiracy involved five kilograms or more of cocaine. If convicted of this charge, each defendant faces a maximum term of life imprisonment, a mandatory minimum term of 10 years and a maximum fine of $4 million. The filing of a second offender notice under the federal statute would double these penalties.

As to HERNANDEZ, MARTINEZ, ANGEL SANTIAGO, VALENTIN, DIAZ, JOEL GUZMAN, RIVAS and VERGARA, the Indictment charges that the conspiracy involved 500 grams or more of cocaine. If convicted of this charge, each defendant faces a maximum term of 40 years of imprisonment, a mandatory minimum term of five years and a maximum fine of $2 million. The filing of a second offender notice under the federal statute would double these penalties, as well.

As to FIGUEROA, JOSE SANTIAGO, SOTO, WILMARY TORRES, WINDY TORRES, CASIANO and RIVERA, the Indictment charges that the conspiracy involved a quantity of cocaine. If convicted of this charge, each defendant faces a maximum term of 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $1 million.

The Indictment also charges SOTO-SOLIVAN, DOMINGO GUZMAN, RONDON FELICIANO, MARTINEZ, HECTOR SANTIAGO and VERGARA with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and distribution of, 100 grams or more of heroin. If convicted of this charge, each defendant faces a maximum term of 40 years of imprisonment, a mandatory minimum term of five years and a maximum fine of $2 million. The filing of a second offender notice under the federal statute would double these penalties.

The Indictment also charges SOTO-SOLIVAN with three separate counts of distribution of heroin, which each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $1 million, and one count of distribution of 100 grams or more of heroin, which carries a maximum term of 40 years of imprisonment, a mandatory minimum term of five years and a maximum fine of $2 million.

Finally, the Indictment charges DOMINGO GUZMAN with distribution of 50 grams or more of cocaine base (“crack cocaine”), which carries a maximum term of life in prison, a mandatory minimum term of 10 years, and a maximum fine of $4 million.

On January 17, 2007, JOSE SANTIAGO pleaded guilty to a Substitute Information that charged him with using a communications facility to aid the conspiracy to distribute heroin. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Senior United States District Judge Peter C. Dorsey in New Haven on April 9, 2007, at which time SANTIAGO faces a maximum term of imprisonment of four years and a fine of up to $250,000.

On January 23, 2007, VALENTIN pleaded guilty to Count One of the Indictment that charged him with conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. Judge Dorsey has scheduled sentencing for April 12, 2007, at which time VALENTIN he faces a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of five years, a maximum term of 40 years and a fine of up to $2 million.

As to the remaining defendants, U.S. Attorney O’Connor stressed that an indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Each defendant is entitled to a fair trial at which it is the Government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

U.S. Attorney O’Connor commended the law enforcement agents and officers who conducted the investigation and praised their devoted efforts to identify, disrupt and dismantle this substantial narcotics trafficking operation.

This investigation is a collaborative effort of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the New Britain Police Department, and the Fall River (MA) Police Department.