Warwick Man Sentenced to Nine Years in Federal Prison for Trafficking Heroin
The defendant operated a large-scale heroin trafficking operation from a residence he shared with his girlfriend and two young children
PROVIDENCE, RI – A convicted felon who was found to be in possession of a kilogram of heroin, a loaded firearm, more than $337,000 in cash, three kilo presses and other assorted items used in the packaging and distribution of drugs, and who was found to have two sophisticated hidden compartments in his vehicle commonly used to conceal contraband, including one embedded inside a child’s car seat, was sentenced today to nine years in federal prison, announced United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.
Jose Manuel Rosario Mella, 55, of Warwick, who had previously been arrested in New York and used multiple names to conceal his true identity, was arrested in August 2020 by members of the Rhode Island DEA Drug Task Force after an investigation determined that he was conducting a large-scale heroin and fentanyl trafficking operation from his Warwick residence; a home that he shared with his partner and her two young children, age five and fifteen.
Rosario Mella pleaded guilty on January 10, 2023, to possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
“This defendant carried out a large-scale drug trafficking organization with zero concern for either the communities poisoned by his toxic shipments of fentanyl and heroin, or for the safety of his own children- one of whose car seats he used to hide his drug shipments,” remarked U.S. Attorney Cunha. “With today’s sentence, a large-scale drug trafficker is out of business and off of Rhode Island streets, and I commend the DEA and our state and local law enforcement partners for their diligent work to make that happen.”
“Heroin is causing great damage to our communities and in this case, it’s putting children’s lives in danger. DEA’s top priority is to aggressively pursue anyone who distributes this poison.” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Boyle. “Illegal drug distribution ravages the foundations of our families so every time we take heroin off the streets, lives will be saved. This investigation demonstrates the strength of collaborative local, state, and federal law enforcement efforts and our strong partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
According to charging documents and information presented to the court, in the summer of 2020, members of the DEA Drug Task Force surveilled Rosario Mella’s drug trafficking activities, including controlled purchases of heroin from the defendant by a person assisting law enforcement. On August 12, 2020, shortly after Rosario Mella drove away from his residence, his vehicle was stopped by law enforcement. A Warwick Police Department certified narcotics detection canine alerted to the presence of narcotics odors at the vehicle. The vehicle was found to contain after-market hides commonly used to conceal contraband behind the front passenger seat and in a child safety seat.
Simultaneously to the defendant’s car being stopped, a court-authorized search of Rosario Mella’s residence resulted in the seizure of a kilogram of heroin found stored among food and other kitchen items in a pantry closet; several containers of cutting agents often mixed with heroin and fentanyl to increase bulk quantities of the drugs stored in a kitchen cabinet; three kilo presses used to package kilograms of drugs; a loaded semi-automatic pistol located inside a storage bin in a bathroom; and $337,660 in cash located in various locations throughout the residence including inside drawers and stashed inside a woman’s sweater.
According to information presented to the court, the $337,660 in cash seized represents the sale of approximately thirteen kilograms of heroin.
Jose Manuel Rosario Mella was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Mary S. McElroy to 108 months in federal prison to be followed by four years of supervised release. Additionally, the court ordered the firearm, cash seized by law enforcement, and two vehicles owned by Rosario Mella be forfeited to the government.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul F. Daly, Jr.
The Rhode Island DEA Drug Task Force is comprised of personnel from the DEA; Rhode Island State Police; the Cranston, Newport, Pawtucket, Providence, Warwick, Woonsocket, and Amtrak Police Departments.
United States Attorney Cunha acknowledges and thanks the Warwick, South Kingstown, and North Kingstown Police Departments for their added assistance in the investigation of this matter.
Updated November 16, 2023
Press Release Number: 22-122