May 24, 2011
Contact: SA Timothy Desmond
Phone Number: 617-557-2100
Eighteen Charged With Federal Drug, Extortion And Money Laundering Charges
Former Watertown officer charged with impeding a federal investigation
BOSTON, MA. - Steven W. Derr, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Boston Field Division; United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Bruce Foucart, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s Office of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston and Colonel Marian McGovern, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police announced the partial unsealing of an indictment charging 18 individuals from Watertown and surrounding areas, with drug, extortion and money laundering offenses. Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies previously executed search warrants at seven locations in Watertown and Waltham, resulting in the seizure of more than $700,000 in U.S. currency, seven kilograms of gold bars, 80 pounds of marijuana, four weapons and several vehicles.
It is alleged that beginning in February 2010, federal agents began a drug trafficking investigation focused on an international marijuana smuggling organization using warehouses in Massachusetts and elsewhere to offload and distribute large quantities of highly pure, hydroponic marijuana. The investigation allegedly led agents to individuals in Watertown and surrounding locations involved in the distribution of marijuana and, the prescription pills Oxycodone.
According to the complaint affidavit, the investigation involved wiretaps that began in August 2010, and ended on April 20, 2011, with the arrest of nine of the defendants. It is alleged that more than $2.7 million in drug proceeds in Newton and Bedford in October 2010 was seized during the course of the investigation. It is further alleged that SAFWAN MADARATI, a.k.a. “Sammy” and KARAPET DZHANIKYAN, a.k.a. “Garo,” obtained information about the home addresses of two local enforcement officers and were observed by federal agents casing the home residences of these law enforcement officers in an apparent attempt to “send a message.” Both were arrested later that day.
Several other acts of extortion are alleged, including the role of SAFWAN MADARATI, a.k.a. “Sammy,” HAGOP SARKISSIAN, a.k.a. “Jack,” and RONALD MARTINEZ in the extortion of Jewelry Store in Newton, on March 17, 2011 and the role of MADARATI, MARTINEZ and SANUSIE MO KABBA in the extortion of an individual in Watertown to collect a drug debt.
The indictment alleges that a former law enforcement officer of the Watertown Police Department, ROBERTO VELASQUEZ-JOHNSON, a.k.a. “George Diamond” conspired with MADARATI to impede, impair and obstruct the lawful functions of the Department of Homeland Security. The indictment alleges that VELASQUEZ warned MADARATI about an ongoing investigation, and provided MADARATI with the home addresses of two local law enforcement officers so that MADARATI could intimidate them. The Indictment further alleges that when VELASQUEZ was questioned by federal agents, VELASQUEZ provided materially false statements regarding his contacts with MADARATI.
The following individuals have been arrested and charged with Conspiracy to Distribute
1,000 Kilograms or More of Marijuana, Oxycodone and Cocaine:
SAFWAN MADARATI, 36, Watertown;
VARTAN A. SOUKIASIAN, 35, Watertown;
HAGOP N. SARKISSIAN, 46, Weston;
ANTRANIC IDANJIAN, 45, Waltham;
ROBERT JOHNSON, 21, Stoneham;
SANUSIE MO KABBA, 26, Stoughton;
JEFFREY SPINKS, 53, Bolyston;
KARAPET DZHANIKYAN, 31, Watertown;
VICTOR LOUKAS, 43, Watertown; and
MANUEL KHANDJIAN, 36, Los Angeles, CA.
If convicted of the charges, the defendants face up to a life in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release and a fine of up to $4 million.
SAFWAN MADARATI; HAGOP N. SARKISSIAN; SANUSIE MO KABBA; and RONALD J. MARTINEZ is also charged with Conspiracy to collect Debt by Extortionate means. If convicted of the charges, they face up to a 20 years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.
SAFWAN MADARATI and VARTAN A. SOUKIASIAN are charged with Maintaining a Place for Drug Purposes. If convicted of the charges, they face up to 20 years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and a fine up to $500,000.
SAFWAN MADARATI and ROBERTO VELASQUEZ-JOHNSON are also charged with Conspiracy to Defraud the United States and if convicted, face up to five years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and a fine up to $250,000.
ROBERTO VELASQUEZ-JOHNSON is charged with Making a Materially False Statement and faces up to five years in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release and a fine up to $250,000 if convicted.
SAFWAN MADARATI is charged with Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments and faces up to 20 years in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release and fine up to $500,000 or twice the value of the laundered funds if convicted.
Assistance was also provided by the Watertown Police Department. The case was investigated by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Boston Strike Force. The case will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil J. Gallagher, Jr., of Ortiz’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Unit.