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News Release [printer friendly page]
September 9, 2005

Four Charged in Large Scale Cocaine Distribution Ring
26 Kilos of Cocaine Seized - Largest Seizure in Springfield History

photo - caption below
Left to Right: William Bennett, Hampden County District Attorney, SAC June W. Stansbury NEFD and Massachusetts United States Attorney Michael Sullivan

Boston, MA... Three of four defendants will appear in federal court later today for arraignment on charges in connection with a large-scale cocaine conspiracy. As a result of the investigation, 26 kilograms of cocaine was seized - the largest cocaine seizure in Springfield’s history.

June W. Stansbury, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in New England; United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan; William Bennett, Hampden County District Attorney; and Colonel Thomas G. Robbins, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, announced the Indictment charging the following four individuals with Conspiracy to Distribute Five Kilograms or More of Cocaine:

1. SERGIO ELPIDIO ALCANTARA-SALDANA, age 29, of 31 Braywood Circle, Springfield, MA;
2. CESAR ZAPATA, age 55, of 93 Florence Street, Springfield, MA;
3. HERIBERTO CARRASCO, age 33, of Springfield, MA; and
4. GEORGE SAMUELS, age 34, of 61 Appaloosa Lane, West Springfield, MA.

Additionally, SAMUELS is charged with one count of Possession With Intent to Distribute Five Kilograms or More of Cocaine.

All of the defendants, but CARRASCO, were arrested on a criminal complaint in connection with this case on Saturday, August 27, 2005, and remain in federal custody at this time. The arrest of CARRASCO is still being sought.

“The people that call Springfield and other cities in western Massachusetts their home should not have to live with drug dealers operating in their community,” stated U.S. Attorney Sullivan. “Individuals, whether they live in the suburbs or in the heart of the City, should be able to walk their streets and go about their daily activities without fear or exposure to drug activity and potential related violence. We will continue to work closely with our federal, state and local partners to enhance the quality of life in neighborhoods throughout Massachusetts.”

Four search warrants were also executed on August 27, 2005, resulting in the seizure of 26 kilograms of cocaine found in the trunk of SAMUELS’ car which was parked in the garage of his Springfield residence. The cocaine seizure is the largest ever in Springfield history and is estimated to have a street value of $800,000. In addition, approximately $100,000 in cash and 3 handguns were seized.

photo - seized drugs

“This DEA- coordinated investigation has put out of business a criminal group whose purpose was the distribution of misery, in the form of cocaine to the citizens of Springfield. Today there are 26 kilos less of cocaine on the street, and three less criminals peddling death and destruction in our neighborhoods,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge June W. Stansbury. “This investigation resulted in the largest cocaine seizure in Springfield’s history, and is far from over. The DEA is committed to ensuring that anyone criminally connected to this seizure is identified, arrested and brought to justice.”

The charges are the result of an investigation begun in March 2005 by the DEA and Massachusetts State Police and included a Massachusetts state wiretap operated out of Hampden County District Attorney Bennett’s Office. In addition to the four federal defendants, two individuals, Hector Delacruz and Carlos Sanchez, have been charged in state court. It is alleged that the two defendants had ties to ZAPATA and at the time of their arrests were linked to 2 kilograms of cocaine and approximately $300,000 in cash.

“The success of the operation is due to the hard work and persistence of the investigators. It is great to see their efforts pay off,” commented Hampden County District Attorney Bennett.

According to the Indictment and other documents previously filed with the Court, it is alleged that ALCANTARA-SALDANA, in partnership with ZAPATA, has been operating a large scale cocaine distribution ring for several years with sources of cocaine located in the South Western United States and New York City. It is alleged that ALCANTARA-SALDANA and ZAPATA at times received shipments of cocaine from Arizona and other parts of the South Western United States hidden in produce transported in tractor trailers and sent cash payments to suppliers in the same fashion. According to a cooperating witness, ALCANTARA-SALDANA claimed at one point to be receiving shipments of 40 to 50 kilograms each week from the South West.

It is alleged that ALCANTARA-SALDANA and ZAPATA who are co-owners of an automobile dealership, Pine Point Auto Sales located at 1608 State Street in Springfield, also used dealership vehicles to transport drugs and drug proceeds. It is alleged that several of the vehicles were fitted with “hides” to secret drugs, weapons and money. It is alleged that during the course of the investigation, ALCANTARA-SALDANA and/or ZAPATA made at least four trips to the Bronx to arrange for or receive cocaine shipments. In one instance, ZAPATA drove 6 hours to the Bronx, had a ten minute face-to-face conversation with a drug supplier to arrange and possibly pay for a cocaine shipment, and then immediately drove back to Massachusetts.

It is alleged that CARRASCO, an employee at the dealership, assisted ALCANTARA-SALDANA and ZAPATA in carrying out drug deals by transporting drugs and drug sale proceeds. SAMUELS is alleged to be a large-scale cocaine distributor in Massachusetts who purchased cocaine in kilogram quantities from ALCANTARA-SALDANA and ZAPATA.

If convicted, each of the defendants faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison up to a maximum of life in prison, and a $4 million fine on the Conspiracy charge. SAMUELS also faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison up to a maximum of life in prison, and a $4 million fine on the Possession With Intent to Distribute Five Kilograms or More of Cocaine charge.

The United States is also seeking the forfeiture of ALCANTARA-SALDANA’s and SAMUELS’ Springfield residences; 2 vehicles including SAMUELS’ 2004 Nissan Pathfinder Armada; ZAPATA’s gold Rolex watch valued at $13,275; and cash totaling $100,512 found in the residences and cars of SAMUELS, ALCANTARA and ZAPATA.

The details contained in the Indictment are allegations. The defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case was investigated by Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office and the Springfield U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, along with DEA Springfield Task Force members from the Chicopee, Holyoke, West Springfield, and Springfield Police Departments. Assistance was also provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Waterford, Connecticut Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Gallagher in Sullivan’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Unit. The forfeiture portion of the case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Zacks in Sullivan’s Asset Forfeiture Unit.

Press Contact: Samantha Martin, (617) 748-3139


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