Skip to main content
Press Release

Rhode Island Project Safe Neighborhoods Investigation Nationally Recognized

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A Project Safe Neighborhoods investigation that brought together thirty-six federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and culminated in federal charges being brought against twenty-three individuals and the seizure of thirteen kilograms of fentanyl, eleven kilograms of cocaine, eleven kilograms of marijuana, and two kilograms of psilocyn mushrooms, was recognized today with a national Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDEFT) award.

All twenty-three individuals have been adjudged guilty in U.S. District Court in Providence and sentenced to federal prison.

The eight-month investigation, dubbed “Operation Panamera,” relied on the combined expertise of the Rhode Island DEA Drug Task Force, the DEA Cape Cod Drug Task Force, and the Rhode Island State Police High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force whose joint work dismantled a drug trafficking organization that imported hundreds of kilograms of fentanyl and cocaine from Mexico and Puerto Rico and redistributed them to drug dealers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont.

In addition to the dozens of kilograms of fentanyl, cocaine, marijuana, and psilocybin mushrooms, law enforcement also seized $60,000 in cash, ten vehicles, and a handgun.

“This award is a testament to two things: the results that flow from effective coordination among our law enforcement partners, and the commitment of those agencies to dismantle and disrupt significant drug trafficking in our state and region,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.  “I am pleased to see the team deservedly recognized with this award.”

“DEA is committed to investigating and dismantling International Drug Trafficking Organizations at the highest levels.  Drug trafficking and the violence associated with it poses a serious threat to the communities across New England” said Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s New England Field Division.  “This investigation is a shining example of DEA and our Federal, State and Local counterparts coming together to bring those who commit these crimes to justice.  I’m proud of the work done in this investigation, not only by members of the DEA, but by all involved from each of our  partner agencies.”

“I’m proud of the work our Troopers do every day to keep illegal narcotics out of our neighborhoods,” said Colonel James M. Manni, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Director of the Department of Public Safety. “Today I am especially pleased that their efforts – along with those of thirty-five other law enforcement partners – were recognized with an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces award. Congratulations to our Troopers and the others involved in Operation Panamera who dismantled a major drug trafficking operation and made our state safer as a result.”

RI DEA, Cape Cod DEA and HIDTA Task Force agents and officers honored today during an OCDEFT New England Advisory Council Meeting held virtually include:

Richard Atwood                 United States. Postal Inspection Service                                                        

James Burns                       Pembroke, Mass. Police Department                                                                                        

Mario Cerullo                     Rhode Island State Police (HIDTA)                                                                      

Kristopher Dees                 Middleboro, Mass. Police Department                                          

Daniel Hernandez              Rhode Island State Police (HIDTA)                                                                     

Alexander Koumanelis      Drug Enforcement Administration                                                                    

Sam Masiello                    Drug Enforcement Administration                                                                      

Andrea Metz                    Drug Enforcement Administration                                                                     

Michael Rusciano             Drug Enforcement Administration  (Posthumously) 

Lindsay Beltzer                 Legal Assistant, U.S. Attorney’s Office                                                        

Defendants charged in this case were prosecuted iby Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul F. Daly, Jr., with the assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Milind M. Shah and Stacey P. Veroni.

The Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them.  As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.



Jim Martin
(401) 709-5357

Updated December 15, 2021

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Press Release Number: 21-138