News Release
For Immediate Release
July 29, 2010

DEA Task Force Investigation Results in Arrest of
20 Hartford-Area Residents
Several police departments involved; Large amount of cocaine, crack and cash seized

JUL 29 -- Steven W. Derr, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Field Division, and David Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut today announced that 20 individuals have been charged with various federal narcotics trafficking offenses related to distribution of cocaine and crack cocaine in the Hartford area.  This matter stems from a 10-month Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force investigation dubbed “Operation Slow Play.”  The investigation, which included the participation of several local police departments and included the use of court-authorized wiretaps, has resulted in the seizure of approximately 26 kilograms of cocaine, two kilograms of crack cocaine, $650,000 in cash, one firearm, and several vehicles.

“I want to acknowledge the extraordinary effort of all of the agents and officers who participate on the DEA Task Force, notably New Britain Police Department personnel, and all the local police departments who have devoted significant time and resources during the course of this investigation,” stated U.S. Attorney Fein.  “Their coordinated efforts have taken a substantial amount of cocaine off the streets, and this investigation could not have been done without them.”

“Operation Slow Play is another example of great cooperation between the Drug Enforcement Administration, our state and local law enforcement partners, and the Office of the United States Attorney,” stated Special Agent in Charge Derr.  “The charges in this indictment allege a widespread, multi-state criminal conspiracy with cocaine being distributed in the Hartford area and the proceeds from those sales being returned to traffickers.  By working together law enforcement agencies were able to completely dismantle this interstate trafficking group.”

“I want to compliment the DEA and officers who worked so diligently to investigate, identify and arrest 20 individuals who are alleged to have operated a high-level drug dealing operation,” stated Chief William Gagliardi, Chief of the New Britain Police Department.  “The flow of illegal drugs into the City and region has been significantly interdicted.  We believe that cooperative agreements work to everyone’s advantage and we hope to continue this relationship in our continuing battle against illegal drug activity.”

The 20 individuals charged in various counts of an eight-count indictment are:

STEVEN VELEZ, 32, of Oak Street, New Britain,

ANGEL MULERO, 36, of Owen Street, Hartford,

GEDEON TORRES, also known as “Papo,” 38, of Plaza Drive, Middletown,

ULISSIS VERDE LOPEZ, 28, of Jaidee Drive, East Hartford,

ARIEL MENDEZ, 29, of Flatbush Avenue, Hartford,

WILLIAM PRIETO, also known as “Gordo,” 27, of Affleck Street, Hartford,

IVAN RODRIGUEZ, 37, of New Britain Avenue, Hartford,

ANTHONY ALVAREZ, also known as “Tony,” 30, of Broad Street, New Britain,

ANTONIO AYALA, 29, of Fairfield Avenue, Hartford,

NORBERTO CASANOVA, also known as “Papito,” 44, of Cedar Street, New Britain,

CARLOS CASTILLO, 29, of Allen Street, New Britain,

MARISSA CRUZ, 31, of Broad Street, New Britain,

JOSE LOPEZ-SOLIS, 34, of Oak Street, New Britain,

HERIBERTO PEREZ, 28, of Washington Street, Wallingford,

FRANK PUZZO, 36, of Maple Street, Rocky Hill,

JUAN RIVAS, also known as “Toto,” 29, of Lawrence Street Hartford,

PHILIP SAMUELS, 31, of Roberts Street, New Britain,

JUAN SOTO, 22, of Church Street, Newington,

ANTWAN YOPP, also known as “Twig,” 31, of Malikowski Circle, New Britain,

ORLANDO ZAYAS, 37, of Lasalle Street, New Britain

According to court documents and statements made during court proceedings, the DEA Task Force investigation revealed that VELEZ had allegedly been trafficking in kilogram quantities of cocaine and multi-ounce quantities of crack cocaine.  It is alleged that VELEZ received the cocaine from MULERO, who had received it from a source outside of Connecticut.  On June 15, 2010, law enforcement received information that TORRES, an associate of MULERO’s, traveled to Philadelphia to pick up a substantial quantity of drug money.  In the early morning hours of June 16, TORRES was the subject of a law enforcement traffic stop during which approximately $100,000 was seized from the trunk of his car.  Later that morning, MULERO and VERDE LOPEZ were arrested at MULERO’s apartment at 16 Owen Street in Hartford.  During a search of the apartment, law enforcement personnel found approximately 21 kilograms of cocaine and $500,000 in cash.  VELEZ was arrested later that same day and an additional five kilograms of cocaine and approximately $20,000 was seized from him.

On June 30, 2010, a federal grand jury sitting in New Haven returned an indictment charging VELEZ, MULERO, TORRES, VERDE and 16 others with various federal narcotics offenses.  On July 14 and July 15, PRIETO and MENDEZ were arrested.  It is alleged that MULERO supplied PRIETO with kilogram quantities of cocaine, and that MENDEZ was an alternate cocaine source of supply to VELEZ.  On July 19, in a coordinated sweep conducted by the law enforcement personnel from the DEA and several local police departments, 13 of the 14 remaining defendants were arrested and presented in the U.S. District Court in Hartford.  On July 21, the final defendant, ANTHONY ALVAREZ, turned himself into the DEA.

If convicted, a number of the defendants face a minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years, a maximum term of life, and fines of up to $4,000,000.  Due to prior narcotics trafficking convictions, a number of defendants face increased penalties.

In addition to the significant resources provided by the New Britain Police Department, U.S. Attorney Fein, specifically noted the critical assistance that the Newington, Windsor, Wethersfield, Wallingford, Manchester, and Hartford Police Departments contributed to the investigation.  Additional assistance has been provided by the United States Marshal’s Service and the State of Connecticut Office of Parole.