Fif­teen peo­ple ar­rested in drug-traf­fick­ing bust

3 broth­ers charged with run­ning ring

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY AN­DREA NO­BLE

Stash houses rented by friends. Cars with hid­den com­part­ments to hold drugs. Stolen iden­ti­ties used to make fake IDs.

The in­tri­ca­cies of a drug traf­fick­ing ring that distributed large amounts of heroin and co­caine across the North­east were on full dis­play in court doc­u­ments de­tail­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the three il­le­gal im­mi­grants charged with run­ning the op­er­a­tion.

The three men, broth­ers hail­ing from the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic, had all pre­vi­ously been ar­rested on drug-re­lated charges and had each been de­ported. But in re­cent years, pros­e­cu­tors say, they built up a drug-traf­fick­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion that re­lied on sup­pli­ers in Mex­ico and the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic and distributed the drugs to deal­ers across Rhode Is­land, Con­necti­cut and Mas­sachusetts.

Au­thor­i­ties ar­rested 15 peo­ple this week sus­pected of be­ing part of the drug traf­fick­ing ring, in­clud­ing the three broth­ers — Hec­tor Valdez, 47, Clau­dio Valdez, 44, and Juan Valdez, 50. Nine of the de­fen­dants charged were iden­ti­fied as Do­mini­can na­tion­als, most liv­ing in the U.S. us­ing pur­port­edly stolen iden­ti­ties. Im­mi­gra­tion de­tain­ers have been filed against them.

A 191-page af­fi­davit filed by an FBI agent in sup­port of the ar­rests in­di­cates that the men were un­der sur­veil­lance for at least seven months, dur­ing which time au­thor­i­ties tapped their phones, fol­lowed and pho­tographed their move­ments, co­or­di­nated drug buys with con­fi­den­tial sources, and even dug through trash out­side of some of the sus­pected stash houses.

Over the course of six months, two con­fi­den­tial sources par­tic­i­pated in 32 con­trolled buys ex­chang­ing more than $43,000 for 120 grams of co­caine, 645 grams of heroin, and 273 grams of the opi­oid fen­tanyl.

Au­thor­i­ties said the group op­er­ated out of sev­eral stash houses rented by as­so­ciates. Drugs were trans­ported for drop offs in ve­hi­cles that had built-in com­part­ments or in rented ve­hi­cles. The court records in­di­cate the three broth­ers all had fraud­u­lent driver’s li­censes that used the stolen iden­ti­ties of Puerto Ri­can men.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment high­lighted the bust as an ex­am­ple of the kinds of cases it seeks to pri­or­i­tize un­der At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, who just this week an­nounced a new fo­cus on pros­e­cu­tions in­volv­ing peo­ple in the United States il­le­gally who en­gage in crime.

“The Pres­i­dent has made the dis­man­tle­ment and de­struc­tion of drug car­tels a top pri­or­ity, and cases like these are in­te­gral in that ef­fort,” Mr. Ses­sions said in a state­ment re­leased Thurs­day. “When law en­force­ment — fed­eral, state and lo­cal — work to­gether like these part­ners in Rhode Is­land, we will be one step closer to ful­fill­ing this goal and pro­tect­ing our com­mu­ni­ties.”

Wire­taps in the case cap­tured dayto-day con­ver­sa­tions about the drug busi­ness, in­clud­ing dis­putes over prices and qual­ity of the drugs be­ing sup­plied.

Dur­ing one ex­change be­tween Juan Valdez and a mid-level dealer, he lamented re­ceiv­ing a ship­ment of heroin that was a lighter color than past ship­ments, in­di­cat­ing that buy­ers were wary of pur­chas­ing it be­cause they thought it was ac­tu­ally fen­tanyl and not heroin, the court doc­u­ments state.

At var­i­ous points, the deal­ers be­came para­noid about sur­veil­lance by law en­force­ment, drop­ping old cell phones and pur­chas­ing news ones.

At one point the court doc­u­ments state that Clau­dio Valdez be­came con­cerned about a ve­hi­cle seen fol­low­ing him and asked his girl­friend to reach out to her friend for a “check” of the car’s li­cense plate to see if it was reg­is­tered or might be an un­der­cover of­fi­cer’s car. The car was in fact a sur­veil­lance ve­hi­cle watch­ing mem­bers of the drug or­ga­ni­za­tion.

While the court doc­u­ments do not de­tail how the drugs were brought to the U.S., they do in­di­cate that sup­pli­ers in­cluded a Do­mini­can source called The Mae­stro and a Mex­i­can drug traf­fick­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion known as The Doc­tor. On at least one oc­ca­sion, deal­ers drove to New York to pick up heroin ship­ments.

The oth­ers charged as part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion are Vladimir Arias, Manuel Castillo, Alexan­dra Gar­cia, Tanya Croteau, Jen­nifer Per­domo, Juan Bautista, Ja­far Mu­nir, Edgardo Romero, Louis A. Pel­lot, Ramon Guzman, Wandy Diaz and a 36-year-old man whose iden­tity in­ves­ti­ga­tors are still work­ing to con­firm.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

“The Pres­i­dent has made dis­man­tle­ment and de­struc­tion of drug car­tels a top pri­or­ity,” said At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions in a state­ment on Thurs­day.

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