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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Rhode Island

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 1, 2019

International Drug Courier Sentenced

PROVIDENCE - A Massachusetts man identified by law enforcement as the primary contact between a major international heroin and fentanyl source of supply in the Dominican Republic and a three-state New England drug trafficking operation based primarily in Rhode Island was sentenced today to 60 months in federal prison by U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell, Jr.

Vladimir Arias, 33, of Peabody, Mass., is identified in court documents as a trusted courier of an individual in the Dominican Republic known as The Maestro, a significant heroin and fentanyl supplier. Arias was responsible for moving significant quantities of heroin and fentanyl into New England, and collecting tens of thousands of dollars at a time from a drug trafficking operation which operated primarily from stash houses in Cranston and Woonsocket, R.I.

According to court documents, the drug trafficking operation was organized and directed by three brothers, Juan, Claudio and Hector Valdez. The Valdez drug trafficking operation supplied heroin and fentanyl to mid-level drug dealers and street dealers in the greater Providence and Boston areas and in Hartford, Conn.

Arias, who was among many individuals whose drug trafficking activities in connection with the Valdez Brothers drug trafficking operation were being monitored, was arrested during a traffic stop on Interstate Route 95 in Rhode Island on April 10, 2017. Agents had just watched him accept a return of heroin from Juan Valdez. Nearly a kilogram of heroin in 10-gram packages for redistribution was found hidden in a crudely constructed hide in the motor vehicle. That heroin was the remainder of a full kilogram that Arias had delivered to Juan Valdez four days earlier. The Maestro agreed to accept return of the heroin because Valdez was not satisfied with the quality of the drug.

Lab testing confirmed that Arias had 858.81 grams of heroin in his possession at the time of his arrest. A court-authorized search of his Massachusetts residence resulted in the seizure of $33,959 that was found hidden in a couch. The $33,959.00 converts to the value of 606.41 grams of heroin.

Arias's sentence is announced by United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division.

During the course of the investigation, dubbed by law enforcement as Operation Triple Play, which the FBI Safe Streets Task Force launched in September 2016, the investigation into the Valdez Drug Trafficking Operation resulted in the purchases or seizures of laboratory tested and confirmed controlled substances totaling approximately 142g of crack cocaine, 1,654g of cocaine, 3,836g of heroin (of which 2,183.3g contained fentanyl), 3,493g of fentanyl, and more than 137 lbs. (62 kilograms) of cutting agents.

Operation Triple Play is an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation initiated by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force. Under the direction of the FBI, the participating agencies in this investigation included the Drug Enforcement Administration (Providence and Boston Resident Agencies), Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Rhode Island State Police, Providence Police Department, Woonsocket Police Department, Central Falls Police Department, Cranston Police Department, Warwick Police Department, and the Rhode Island Department of Corrections.

Claudio Valdez was sentenced on November 28, 2018, to 20 years in federal prison. Juan Valdez was sentenced on December 14, 2018, to 20 years in federal prison. Hector Valdez was sentenced January 18, 2019, to 108 months in federal prison.

The Valdez brothers, all Dominican nationals, reentered the country illegally after having been previously convicted of felony drug crimes and deported. Juan Valdez reentered the country illegally on at least four occasions. Immigration detainers have been lodged against all three.

Arias admitted to law enforcement that he had entered the country through Mexico illegally. An immigration detainer has been lodged against him.

Operation Triple Play cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gerard B. Sullivan, with the assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorneys William J. Ferland, Ronald A. Gendron, and Richard W. Rose.

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Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Jim Martin (401) 709-5357
Press Release Number: 
19-09
Updated February 8, 2019