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DEA Task Force Investigation Dismantles Hartford-Based Heroin and Fentanyl Distribution Ring

JUNE 29 (HARTFORD, Conn.) – Michael J. Ferguson Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s New England Division and Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut and Hartford Police Chief James C. Rovella announced that the following 13 individuals were arrested today on federal charges related to the distribution of heroin and fentanyl in the Hartford area and western Massachusetts.

Joel Cordero, 37, of Meriden, Conn.
Edwin Reyes, 34, of Hartford
Gisel de la Cruz, 43, of East Hartford, Conn.
Angel de Jesus-Concepcion, aka “Blue,” 40, of East Hartford, Conn.
Anthony Acosta, 28, of New Britain, Conn.
Gabriel Cordero, 30, of Hartford
Alexander Pena, 25, of East Hartford, Conn.
Amarilis Pirela, 38, of Springfield, Mass.
Jonathan Velez, 23, of Springfield, Mass.
Henry Caraballo, 26, of Hartford
Fernando Tolentino, Jr., aka “Humacao,” 46, of Hartford
Daily Pena, 39, of Hartford
Angel Rijo-Castillo, 41, of Guttenberg, N.J.

As alleged in criminal complaints and statements made in court, in October 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Hartford Task Force began an investigation of an organization that was trafficking large quantities of heroin, fentanyl and other narcotics in Connecticut and western Massachusetts. 

The investigation, which included court-authorized wiretaps, controlled purchases of narcotics and physical surveillance, revealed that members of the organization were receiving bulk quantities of heroin and fentanyl from out-of-state suppliers.  They then stored, processed and packaged the heroin and fentanyl in multiple locations, including apartments located at 280 Collins Street in Hartford where some of the defendants also resided, and then distributed the drug in the Hartford, Springfield and Holyoke, Massachusetts areas.  A significant amount of drug trafficking activity occurred at Neighborhood Supermarket, located at 316 Farmington Avenue in Hartford. 

During the investigation and in association with today’s arrests, law enforcement executed 12 search warrants in Connecticut and Massachusetts and seized approximately 20 kilograms of suspected heroin, most of which was packaged for resale in hundreds of thousands of bags.  Investigators also seized numerous vials of Xylazine, which is a horse tranquilizer used by narcotics traffickers as a heroin additive.  Seven firearms also were seized.

“Opioid abuse is at epidemic levels across New England and those suffering from opioid addiction need access to treatment and recovery,” said Ferguson.  “But those responsible for distributing lethal drugs like fentanyl and heroin to the citizens of Connecticut need to be held accountable for their actions.  Today’s seizure of pre-packaged suspected heroin and fentanyl is one of the largest in Connecticut and shows DEA’s commitment to aggressively pursue Drug Trafficking Organizations or individuals who distribute these poisons in order to profit and destroy people’s lives.  This investigation demonstrates the strength and continued commitment of our local, state and federal partners and our strong relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

“The seizure of 20 kilos of heroin makes clear this was a major drug distribution operation in the Hartford area,” said Daly.  “The opioid epidemic continues to destroy lives in every corner of Connecticut.  In partnership with the DEA, and the state and local police, we will continue to prioritize the prosecution of these responsible for trafficking this deadly drug.”

The complaint charges the defendants with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute heroin, and possession with intent to distribute and distribution of heroin.  Following their arrests, the defendants appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert A. Richardson in Hartford and were ordered detained.

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Hartford Task Force includes personnel from the DEA Hartford Resident Office and the Bristol, Hartford, East Hartford, Manchester, New Britain, Rocky Hill, Wethersfield, Windsor Locks and Willimantic Police Departments.  Agencies assisting the investigation include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Marshals Service and Connecticut State Police.


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