Eleven members of a family-led drug ring based in Boston are facing a slew of charges in allegedly moving large amounts of heroin through the city, officials said Friday.
The arrests were part of a lengthy probe dubbed Operation Whirlwind, an offshoot of an earlier federal investigation, the office of Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said. It involved court-authorized wiretaps of cellphones and landlines, among other tactics.
Police seized $40,000 in cash, $800 in counterfeit US currency, two illegal firearms, and just less than a kilogram of heroin as part of the operation, Conley’s office said.
“This operation demonstrates [the Boston Police Department’s] continued commitment to reducing violence by getting drugs and guns off our streets,” said William Evans, the acting Boston police commissioner.
Jake Wark, a spokesman for Conley, said in e-mail that the group allegedly moved up to a kilogram of heroin, which has an average value of approximately $70,000, about every two weeks.
Asked if authorities are targeting additional members of the alleged ring, Wark said that “investigators will follow the evidence wherever it goes.”
Seven of the 11 suspects, including Francisco Arias, 32, of Roslindale, who is one of the two reputed leaders, were arrested in the crackdown on Thursday. Six were arraigned Thursday in Boston Municipal Court, and the seventh will be arraigned Monday, Conley’s office said.
Arias was held on $1 million bail, and a not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf to six counts of conspiracy to violate the state’s drug laws, four counts of heroin trafficking, and one count each of money laundering and possession of a counterfeit note, prosecutors said.
His lawyer at arraignment could not be reached for comment.
The remaining four suspects were in custody prior to Thursday, mainly on drug charges. They are expected to be arraigned on new drug-related counts in the coming weeks, authorities said.
Prosecutors also said that Arias’s brother, Vladimir Arias-Santana, 28, allegedly managed the street-level distribution, and their mother, Nerys Santana, 52, of Roslindale is accused of letting them use her Brookway Road residence to meet with customers and store cash and drugs.
Another defendant — Elvin Maldonado, 37, of Hyde Park — allegedly worked with Francisco Arias at the top of the organization. Maldonado is currently jailed on drunken driving charges and is expected to be charged with drug and weapons violations, said Conley’s office.
Maldonado’s prior criminal record includes a conviction for being an accessory after the 2002 shooting death of Pedro Vargas, 25, of Lawrence on the Massachusetts Turnpike near the Allston-Brighton tolls, Conley’s office said.
Arias-Santana is being held without bail pending arraignment Monday on two counts of conspiracy to violate the state’s drug laws and charges of possession of a Class A substance with intent to distribute and money laundering, Conley’s office said.
A not-guilty plea was entered on Santana’s behalf to conspiracy and money laundering charges, and she was released on her own recognizance. A call to a number listed for Santana was not returned on Friday.
Conley pointed to the key role that wiretaps played in the investigation.
“To reach the top of the trafficking pyramid,” Conley said in his statement, “we went to a Superior Court judge, not once, not twice, but on eight separate occasions to intercept the communications of top-level drug traffickers. This is the result.”