Photo: Confiscated items (The Cannabis Boards)
In a massive drug enforcement operation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), more than 100 individuals were arrested early Wednesday in five states and Puerto Rico on state and federal charges related to the large-scale trafficking of heroin and cocaine from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico into and around southeastern Connecticut.
On the morning of April 3, more than 700 law enforcement officers and agents involved in the operation executed scores of federal and state arrests in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Puerto Rico.
Fifty-three individuals were arrested on federal narcotics and money laundering charges and 50 on state narcotics and related charges. Additional defendants were previously arrested during the course of the investigation, and several individuals are still 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.
The investigation revealed two overlapping conspiracies centered in New London County, Connecticut 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 a network of individuals who distributed wholesale amounts of drugs to customers in New London County. In association with the arrests, law enforcement officers seized narcotics, firearms, cash and vehicles.
According to the charges related to the heroin conspiracy, the HSI-led investigation revealed that Luis Ariel Capellan Maldonado, aka Ariel, regularly procured multi-kilogram quantities of heroin from the Dominican Republic and worked with several individuals to distribute the drug in southeastern Connecticut.
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.
In the cocaine conspiracy, the investigation revealed that Pedro Rivera, aka Cheito, of Groton, Conn., regularly obtained kilogram quantities of cocaine from sources in Puerto Rico.
Rivera and his trusted associate, Luis Zayas, aka Guichan, used a variety of methods to transport the cocaine from Puerto Rico to the United States, including the U.S. mail.
The investigation also identified Juan G. Cheverez, aka Guinchi, of Groton as a narcotics trafficker who received kilogram-quantities of cocaine in the mail from Axel Matta Figueroa, aka Joelito, in Puerto Rico.
The federal defendants arrested 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.