News and Press Releases

News Release
U.S. Department of Justice
Peter F. Neronha
United States Attorney
District of Rhode Island

August 26, 2010     



PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Three men captured on an undercover FBI videotape attending a recent organizational meeting of the Trinitarios street gang in Rhode Island were indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday, and arrested and arraigned Thursday on firearms and drug charges. A fourth individual who was present at the meeting has been charged by the State on a firearm’s charge. The charges are the result of a months-long investigation by the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, which includes members of federal, state and local law enforcement which targets gang activity in the metropolitan Providence area.

One of the defendant’s, John Polanco, 28, of Providence, was identified during the meeting as the leader or “Primera” of the Trinitarios chapter in Rhode Island. Polanco, previously convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, was released from prison five days prior to attending the meeting and was on federal supervised release.

Trinitarios is a Dominican prison gang formed on Rikers Island, a New York state prison, in the 1980's.  The gang has extended to all five boroughs of New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Illinois, Florida and New Jersey.

Indictments unsealed in U.S. District Court charge Polanco with two counts of a felon in possession of a firearm, and two counts each of conspiracy to distribute Ecstasy and distribution of Ecstasy. Jose Cabrera, 24, and Rafael Soriano, 31, both of Providence, are charged with conspiracy to distribute Ecstasy and distribution of Ecstasy. The defendants entered not guilty pleas before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge David L. Martin and were ordered detained.

An arrest warrant has been issued by the State for a fourth defendant on a firearm’s charge.

The charges were announced by U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha; Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Field Office; Mark W. Curtin, Resident Agent in Charge of ATF’s Providence Field Office; Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch; Colonel Dean Esserman, Chief of the Providence Police Department; Colonel Marco Palombo Jr, Chief of the Cranston Police Department; Rhode Island State Police Superintendent Colonel Brendan P. Doherty; and Major General Robert T. Bray, Adjutant General of the State of Rhode Island.

During detention hearings in U.S. District Court for Polanco, Cabrera and Soriano, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard W. Rose told the court the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force was able to attend and record an organizing meeting of the Trinitarios street gang on June 12, 2010.  Seventeen people were present and identified.  Among other things, it was discussed that John Polanco was the leader or “Primera” of the local chapter; they would collect money for weapons, lawyers, and brothers in jail; two people were made members at the meeting (one provisionally); and they recited the gang prayer.

As a result of information gained by the Safe Streets Task Force, the FBI was able to purchase firearms on two occasions from Polanco while he was wearing a probation ankle bracelet. Polanco also participated in separate Ecstasy conspiracies with Cabrera and Soriano. 

U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha commented, “Plain and simple, gangs are a blight on this State’s urban areas. They intimidate and terrorize residents, particularly young people, and bring crime to otherwise peaceful neighborhoods. Today’s arrests are intended to put a stake through the heart of one of the developing gang organizations in Rhode Island, and are a step forward in our ongoing fight against such groups.”

Neronha added, “I want to thank the federal, state and local agencies that provide the personnel that make up the Task Force. This operation is the perfect example of how the combined efforts of federal, state and local agencies working together can and are making a significant difference. I want to personally thank the FBI, ATF, Rhode Island State Police, Providence Police, Cranston Police and the Rhode Island National Guard for their work on the task force; and the added support of ICE and the US Marshals in arresting these defendants.”

Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation added, “The FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, strives to increase the quality of life in our communities by keeping firearms and drugs off the street.  This operation thwarted both potential and actual activities of a violent gang, enabling law-abiding citizens and their children to feel safer in their neighborhoods.”

Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch noted, “This Office's ongoing partnership with the United States Attorney has once again proven that by working together, our offices can ensure that those who choose to break the law are held accountable."

Colonel Dean Esserman, Chief of the Providence Police Department said, “This special task force that was created a year ago to aggressively focus on gangs in Rhode Island has quickly proven its worth. Their aggressive approach to identify and attack street crime prevented this gang from taking root in Providence or anywhere in our state. Providence’s investment of providing full-time investigators to the task force from its inception is already paying dividends.”

An indictment is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.


Contact: 401-709-5357


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