After a ten-month criminal investigation into drug trafficking activities in and around the Veterans Memorial housing complex in Woonsocket, the Woonsocket Police, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the RI DEA Drug Task Force, and Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today announced the arrest of more than 30 individuals on drug trafficking charges.
Named "Operation Zero Tolerance," the investigation focused on eliminating the perpetual violence in and around the Veterans Memorial housing complex that is being fueled by illicit drug trafficking.
Over the course of the investigation, federal and local law enforcement identified individuals who were known for trafficking in narcotics and executed in excess of 60 controlled buys of heroin, fentanyl, crack, and cocaine from approximately 35 individuals in the vicinity of the housing complex.
The investigation led to the seizure of approximately 25 grams of heroin, five grams of fentanyl, more than 350 grams of crack cocaine/cocaine, and approximately $6,500 in U. S. currency.
Beginning early morning on Friday, February 19, 2016 and continuing through last week, police and DEA agents executed arrest warrants on the targeted individuals. As of today, 29 individuals have been charged by information and arraigned in Providence County Superior Court on various counts of Delivery of a Controlled Substance and Conspiracy to Violate the Uniformed Controlled Substances Act, one juvenile was presented in Family Court, and two individuals were charged by federal criminal complaint and ordered detained following an initial appearance in U. S. District Court. One defendant was arrested by Attleboro Police and is awaiting extradition for arraignment. There are two remaining suspects that have warrants issued for their arrest.
When executing the arrest warrants, two additional individuals who were not original targets of the investigation were arrested and charged for various offenses.
"I am very pleased with the success of this joint operation, and I am extremely proud of the Woonsocket Police Department and its members in their efforts to make the City safer and in their progress to rid the City of drugs. Working together with our state and federal partners, I hope to continue to press ahead and make all of our housing facilities safer for our residents," said Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt.
"The execution of this operation from the initial inception nearly one year ago to the warrant sweep on Friday, February 19, 2016, clearly demonstrates the tremendous collaboration and partnership between the Woonsocket Police Department and our federal, state and local law enforcement partners. Our partners assisted in this operation to help make Woonsocket a safer community just as we have helped other communities rid their neighborhoods of drug traffickers. We can accomplish great things when we work together," said Woonsocket Police Acting Chief Captain Michael Lemoine.
"As we all know, drug trafficking in our communities, along with the gun and physical violence that often accompanies it, is a serious threat to our families and our communities," said Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Ferguson. "These crimes rob the neighborhoods of safety and hold law abiding citizens of the Veterans Memorial Housing Complex hostage to drug fueled lawlessness. This is unacceptable and will not be allowed to happen. DEA and its state and local partners are committed to bringing to justice those that commit these crimes."
"Every person deserves to feel safe in their own neighborhood. As the name of this investigation indicates, we have zero tolerance for those who traffic drugs in our communities," said Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin. Thanks to the joint efforts of the Woonsocket Police, the DEA, and the members of the RI DEA Drug Task Force, the residents of the Veterans Memorial housing complex can feel better knowing we have disrupted a major drug trafficking network in their neighborhood."
The following agencies have participated in the aforementioned investigation: Woonsocket Police Department, Central Falls Police Department, Coventry Police Department, Cranston Police Department, East Providence Police Department, Johnston Police Department, Pawtucket Police Department, Providence Police Department, Newport Police Department, South Kingstown Police Department, Warwick Police Department, West Warwick Police Department the Rhode Island State Police, the Rhode Island Sheriffs, the United States Marshals, and the Woonsocket Housing Authority.
The state cases are being prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Joseph McBurney and John Perotta.