Massive Joint Law Enforcement Operation Dismantles Southeastern Connecticut Heroin And Cocaine Rings
Niantic, Conn. – In a massive operation headed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut and Homeland Security Investigations in Connecticut, in partnership with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, approximately one hundred individuals were arrested today on charges related to the large-scale trafficking of heroin and cocaine from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico into and around southeastern Connecticut.
The announcement of this long-term investigation and today’s arrests was made by David B. Fein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, Michael L. Regan, State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of New London, Bruce M. Foucart, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New England, Steven G. Hughes, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Secret Service, New York Field Office, New London Police Chief Margaret Ackley, Norwich Police Chief Louis J. Fusaro, Sr., Colonel Danny R. Stebbins of the Connecticut State Police, and other members of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies who participated in the investigation and today’s operation.
This morning, more than 700 law enforcement officers involved in the operation executed scores of federal and state arrest and arrest warrants in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Puerto Rico. Approximately 52 individuals were arrested on federal narcotics and money laundering charges, and approximately 52 individuals were arrested on state narcotics and related charges. Additional defendants were previously arrested during the course of the investigation, and several individuals are currently being sought by law enforcement. The arrests stem from a 15-month investigation that included the use of court-authorized wiretaps on 15 telephones, extensive physical surveillance and controlled purchases and seizures of cocaine and heroin.
As alleged in criminal complaints filed in association with today’s arrests and unsealed today in U.S. District Court in New Haven, this investigation was initiated in early 2012 to combat narcotics-trafficking and money laundering in the City of New London. The investigation revealed two overlapping conspiracies centered in New London County, one involving heroin distribution and one involving cocaine distribution. The two conspiracies employed a variety of methods to import narcotics from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico into southeastern Connecticut, and involved scores of individuals who distributed wholesale amounts of drugs to customers in New London County.
In association with today’s arrests, law enforcement officers executed multiple search warrants and seized narcotics, firearms, cash and vehicles.
“We allege that the defendants arrested today were responsible for a very large percentage of the heroin and cocaine available for street sale in New London County,” said U.S. Attorney David Fein. “As is clear from this extensive and far-reaching investigation and today’s coordinated operation, we in federal, state and local law enforcement are committed to working together, across state and federal borders, to disrupt the flow of illegal narcotics and to identifying and seizing assets purchased with the proceeds of drug trafficking.”
“I would like to take the opportunity to express our office’s appreciation for the tireless work of the members of the US Attorney’s Office, Homeland Security, the Secret Service the Connecticut State Police and all of our local police departments – New London, Norwich, Waterford, Groton Town, Groton City, and East Lyme – in identifying and targeting this large scale narcotics trafficking enterprise in Southeastern Connecticut,” said Michael L. Regan, State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of New London. “The dedication of, and cooperation between, these agencies has been exemplary and is a credit to all.”
“Drug trafficking organizations must be aggressively attacked and dismantled at every level,” said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of HSI Boston. Foucart oversees HSI throughout New England. “Today we have stopped two criminal organizations from bringing significant quantities of heroin and cocaine into our communities in Connecticut and throughout New England. The result of this operation is nothing short of significant and it underscores what the people expect from law enforcement: Keep drugs out of our neighborhoods. These arrests will keep the citizens of New England safer from the inevitable violence that drug trafficking brings, and chokes off a major drug stream into Connecticut – the largest our agency has ever uncovered in the state's history.”
“The U.S. Secret Service is proud to have participated in the multi-agency criminal investigation leading to the arrests of over 100 suspects involved in this money laundering and narcotics scheme”, said Steven Hughes, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service New York Field Office. “Through a collaborative approach with New York and Connecticut based Secret Service Offices and in conjunction with Homeland Security Investigations, other federal agencies, Connecticut State Police, as well as several local police departments in the New London area, this case exemplifies how cooperation and strong partnerships have allowed us to focus our resources and respond quickly to uncover and prevent these types of crimes, whether they originate within or outside our borders.”
“This law enforcement operation is the culmination of a long-term investigation that was initiated by members of the New London Police Department, Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Secret Service,” said New London Police Chief Margret Ackley. The New London Police Department has dedicated numerous officers to this investigation, and an operation of this size is not possible without the assistance of our federal partners. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the dedicated officers of the New London Police Department and all of our federal partners for making this law enforcement operation possible and actively working to make our community a safer place.”
“The operation today shows the importance and the benefits of interagency cooperation,” said Norwich Police Chief Louis J. Fusaro, Sr. “When local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies all work together the resulting arrests speak for themselves. I am very pleased with the outcome of this law enforcement operation. The arrests made today and the prosecution of these individuals will have a huge effect on illicit activity in the City of Norwich and this region, now and into the future.”
“The Connecticut State Police is a proud participant in this significant investigation, which has targeted and disrupted the flow of narcotics into our state,” said Colonel Danny Stebbins of the Connecticut State Police. “The extraordinary teamwork of local, state and federal law enforcement contributed to today’s successful operation.”
The Heroin Conspiracy
As alleged, the investigation revealed that Luis Ariel Capellan Maldonado, also known as “Ariel,” regularly procured multi-kilogram quantities of heroin from the Dominican Republic and worked with several individuals to distribute the drug in southeastern Connecticut. Operating out of his apartment building on Hawthorne Drive in New London, Capellan Maldonado supplied customers with raw heroin, often in quantities of 50 to 150 grams. He also had access to kilogram quantities of cocaine and sometimes supplied cocaine to wholesale cocaine distributors in New London.
The investigation further revealed that Capellan Maldonado coordinated the shipment of heroin, and sometimes cocaine, via human couriers from the Dominican Republic to the United States. He also obtained heroin from other sources in New York City and Rhode Island.
Capellan Maldonado, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, routinely sent thousands of dollars in drug proceeds back to the Dominican Republic.
The investigation further revealed that one of Capellan Maldonado’s associates, Enrique Luciano, also known as “Ipi,” supplied wholesale quantities of heroin and cocaine to Miguel Morales, also known as “Neow,” and others, who distributed heroin and cocaine to other wholesale distributors and street-level sellers in and around New London.
The Cocaine Conspiracy
As alleged, the investigation revealed that Pedro Rivera, also known as “Cheito,” of Groton, regularly obtained kilogram quantities of cocaine from sources in Puerto Rico. Rivera’s trusted associate, Luis Zayas, also known as “Guichan,” of Waterford, also was involved in the procurement of cocaine. Rivera, Zayas and their associates used a variety of methods to transport the cocaine from Puerto Rico to the United States, including the U.S. mail. Pedro Rivera and Zayas supplied other individuals, including Frankie Rivera, who used his business, PR Speedshop on Westwood Avenue in New London, to sell cocaine to street-level customers.
The investigation also identified Juan G. Cheverez, also known as “Guinchi,” of Groton as a narcotics trafficker who received kilogram-quantities of cocaine in the mail from Axel Matta Figueroa, also known as “Joelito,” in Puerto Rico. At times, Cheverez also obtained cocaine from Luis Zayas. Cheverez was assisted by others with distributing cocaine around New London and in transporting money to Puerto Rico.
The investigation further revealed that Oscar Valentin, also known as “Tato,” and his employees sold narcotics supplied by Pedro Rivera and others to customers from a garage Valentin managed at the intersection of Walker Street and Bristol Street in New London.
The federal defendants arrested today in Connecticut were transported to U.S. District Court in New Haven. Based on the quantity of narcotics involved in these conspiracies, the government is seeking pre-trial detention on the vast majority of the defendants who, if convicted, face mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment of five or ten years.
In addition to the defendants arrested today, during the course of the investigation, three individuals were previously arrested and charged with federal firearms offenses, and five individuals were previously arrested and charged with state narcotics violations.
U.S. Attorney Fein stressed that a complaint is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations; United States Secret Service; United States Postal Inspection Service; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Air and Marine; Connecticut State Police; New London Police Department, Norwich Police Department, Waterford Police Department, Groton Town Police Department, East Lyme Police Department and Putnam Police Department. The United States Marshals Service; ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations; Drug Enforcement Administration; HSI Assistant Attaché, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; HSI Arecibo, Puerto Rico Resident Office; Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation; Connecticut Department of Correction, Parole and Community Services; and the Groton City, Willimantic, New Haven and Bristol Police Departments have provided valuable assistance to the investigation.
The federal case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Alina P. Reynolds, Sarah P. Karwan and Henry K. Kopel. The state cases are being prosecuted by the State’s Attorney for the New London Judicial District and Senior Assistant State’s Attorneys Paul Narducci and Stephen Carney.
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