HSI Investigation Shuts Down Heroin Trafficking Operation
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Matthew J. Etre, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Boston, today announced the five individuals were arrested over the weekend in Hartford and charged with federal heroin trafficking offenses.
As alleged in the criminal complaint, 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 that it contained a hidden compartment (“trap”), which is 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 vehicle and, between October 2016 and January 2017, HSI agents observed it at various locations in Connecticut and Rhode Island. On January 17, agents located the vehicle at 1091 Maple Avenue in Hartford. On January 20, surveillance officers observed activity on another vehicle located at the Maple Avenue residence consistent with manipulating a mechanical hidden compartment. Officers then observed ARANA placing two duffel bags into that second vehicle and then driving off in the vehicle with MODESTO BARETT-MEDINA. At approximately 8:30 p.m., a Hartford Police cruiser pulled the car over. The vehicle also contained a hidden trap, but a search revealed no contraband.
ERISON PERALTA, LUZ CRUZ and her daughter, CAROL AMPARO, were then located inside of 1091 Maple Avenue. The complaint alleges that a search of the residence 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. Agents then searched the Malibu, which was located in the garage of 1091 Maple Avenue, and recovered approximately $260,000 in cash from inside the trap.
The complaint charges ARANA, BARETT, PERALTA, CRUZ and AMPARO 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. Both offenses carry a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a maximum term of imprisonment of life.
CRUZ and AMPARO are also charged with maintaining a drug-involved premises, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.
The five defendants appeared today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna F. Martinez in Hartford. ARANA, 39, a citizen of Mexico; BARETT, 47, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, and PERALTA, 39, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, were ordered detained.
CRUZ, 46, and AMPARO, 20, were released on $50,000 bonds.
U.S. Attorney Daly stressed that 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.
This matter is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Hartford Police Department and the Connecticut State Police, with the assistance of the Baldwin County (Ala.) Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Gustafson.