OCT 31 (HARTFORD, Conn.) John J. Arvanitis, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in New England, Deirdre M. Daly, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, New Britain Police Chief James Wardwell and Wethersfield Police Chief James Cetran today announced that 24 individuals have been charged in a 14-count superseding indictment with narcotics distribution and related offenses stemming from a long-term investigation into a coast to coast drug trafficking ring.
As alleged in court documents and statements made in court, in January 2013, the DEA's Hartford Task Force began an investigation into the narcotics distribution activities of Luis Fernandez of East Hartford. The investigation, which included the use of court-authorized wiretaps and controlled purchases of narcotics, revealed that Fernandez's family members and associates in southern California shipped heroin, cocaine and marijuana to Fernandez at various addresses in the Hartford area. Fernandez also was supplied with narcotics from individuals in New York. Fernandez then sold the drugs to customers in Connecticut.
"Thanks to the diligent efforts of DEA's Hartford Task Force, a drug pipeline from California to Connecticut has been shut down," stated acting U.S. Attorney Daly. "All of the police departments who participate on the task force, notably the New Britain and Wethersfield Police Departments whose officers spearheaded this investigation, have devoted significant time and resources to rid our community of narcotics and their negative effects. I also want to thank our many federal and state law enforcement partners who contributed to this successful investigation."
"Heroin destroys individuals, families and communities," stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Arvanitis. "DEA and our partners are committed to dismantling criminal organizations that attempt to flood our neighborhoods with heroin and other drugs. These enforcement successes are a direct result of the combined efforts of DEA, along with our state and local partners."
"The results of the collaborative efforts of the DEA and the local departments continue to bring amazing results," stated New Britain Police Chief Wardwell. "New Britain's Detective Frank Bellizzi, who is assigned to the DEA's task force, represents the New Britain Police Department very well through his professionalism and dedication. I am very proud of Detective Bellizzi's outstanding work investigating high level drug trafficking, particularly his work in this investigation. The work being done here makes a dramatic impact in all our communities by helping to rid this poison from our streets and reduce violent crimes. The New Britain Police Department remains committed to its partnership with law enforcement agencies on the local, state, and federal level to continue to address these issues as they arise."
"We made a commitment to the DEA Task Force several years back to help rid our community of the scourge of illegal drugs," stated Wethersfield Police Chief Cetran. "Arresting local drug users did seem to be making a difference but we could see there had to be more; a two-prong attack. Drugs are a local, regional, and nationwide problem that affects all of our citizens either through direct association with drug users or the crimes related to drug use that include property crimes and crimes against persons. The officer we assigned to the task force, Officer Jeff Poulin, has done an excellent job as part of the team of local, state, and federal investigators overall, and as part of this investigation. We can see the results of the task force's efforts on a daily basis by the number of arrests and convictions in high level trafficking of drugs cases. The results of these arrests and convictions trickle down to the streets of our communities by lessening the availability of illegal drugs to drug users who commit the local crimes. We plan to continue to make this sacrifice and commitment as it is worthwhile and delivers results."
Charged in the indictment are:
LUIS FERNANDEZ, 30, of East Hartford
FERNANDO FERNANDEZ-GARZA, a.k.a. "Juan Carlos Garza" and "Don Fernando,
49, of Artesia, Calif.
LAWRENCE CHAMBERS, 34, of East Hartford
ERIC COLON, 27, of Hartford
CHAZ DASILVA, 20, of Newington
JESUS FERNANDEZ, a.k.a. "Guerro" and "Guate," 28, of East Hartford
RICARDO FERNANDEZ, a.k.a. "Pepe," 19, of East Hartford
SANDI FERNANDEZ, 27, of Artesia, Calif.
JULIO CESAR DE LA ROSA, a.k.a. "Negro," 25, of Hartford
RAMON GALVEZ, a.k.a. "Tanky," 38, of New York, N.Y.
EVANGELINA GARZA, 47, of Artesia, Calif.
MICHAEL HAYNES, 27, of East Hartford
ALBERTO HERNANDEZ, 32, of New Britain
CHARLES KELLEY, 39, of Hartford
CARLOS MERCADO, a.k.a. "Los," 27, of Hartford
BOLIVAR NERIS-RECIO, a.k.a. "Pablo" and "Tigre," 32, of New York, N.Y.
KAREN ORTEGA, 27, of Lynwood, Calif.
JOSE RIVERA-BARON, a.k.a. "Mexico" and "Chyks, 30," of East Hartford
JOSE DEJESUS RIVERA, a.k.a. "Chuy," 24, of Pomona, Calif.
ARMANDO RUELAS-RANGEL, 38, of Harwinton
JOSHUA SAEZ, 24, of Hartford
THOMAS SANCHEZ, 25, of New Britain
The indictment was returned by a grand jury in Hartford on October 1, 2013. The investigation culminated on October 9 when a majority of the defendants were arrested. To date, 22 of the defendants have been arrested and two are currently being sought by law enforcement.
During the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized approximately four kilograms of heroin, approximately 100 pounds of marijuana and more than $150,000 in cash.
The indictment alleges that all of the defendants, with the exception of Hernandez, Saez and Sanchez, conspired to possess with intent to distribute various quantities of heroin and/or cocaine. In addition, Luis Fernandez, Chambers, Dasilva, Jesus Fernandez, DeJesus Rivera and Ruelas-Rangel are charged in one or more counts with possession with intent to distribute heroin.
The indictment also charges Colon with Saez with interference with commerce by robbery, and Saez with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and possession with intent to distribute heroin. These charges stem from an incident on August 16 when it is alleged that Colon and Saez robbed Rivera-Baron of heroin.
Finally, the indictment charges Hernandez and Sanchez with attempted possession with intent to distribute heroin on July 24. On that date, law enforcement officers seized $3,495 from Hernandez and Sanchez in Wethersfield.
During the course of the investigation, on August 7, 2013, Hartford Police attempted to stop a vehicle after receiving information from the DEA Task Force that one of the vehicle's three occupants had allegedly purchased narcotics from a member of the conspiracy. The vehicle drove from police at a high rate of speed and crashed into a tree, and the occupants fled. Officers apprehended two of the three individuals, one of whom was subsequently identified as Carlos Ramos, 23, of Hartford. Ramos has four outstanding arrest warrants from Puerto Rico, including a warrant for murder and another for shooting at a police officer. He is currently in state custody.
Acting U.S. Attorney Daly stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill in Bridgeport.
This investigation is being led by the Drug Enforcement Administration's Hartford Task Force, which includes personnel from the DEA Hartford Resident Office and the Bristol, Hartford, Manchester, New Britain, Newington, and Wethersfield Police Departments, with the valuable assistance of DEA Los Angeles Field Division HIDTA Group 42. Agencies assisting the investigation include the DEA in New Haven, Bridgeport, Los Angeles and Panama, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Connecticut State Police, State of Connecticut Office of Adult Probation, and the Hartford, East Hartford and New Britain Police Departments.