The yellow house in the shadow of Interstate 93 in Charlestown used to be quiet. But a few months back, things changed fast, and for the worse.
Neighbors said the tenants began holding loud parties that lasted until dawn. Shady-looking people would show up at all hours, huddle briefly with occupants, then leave. Young women arrived in groups from the train station down the street.
Much of it, several neighbors said Friday, was done in plain view — out of a home rented with public subsidies.
“They were dealing drugs right in front of the house,” said one neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous because he feared retaliation. “There was no shame in their game.”
Early Thursday morning, after several complaints from neighbors and an undercover investigation, police raided the Cambridge Street home on suspicion of drug activity and prostitution. They found 14 people in the three-story home, and what authorities described as strong evidence of a drug operation, including cocaine, marijuana, a digital scale and plastic bags, and some $2,800 in cash.
They also found sex toys and condoms, according to a police report.
On Friday, prosecutors charged three Boston men found at the home with dealing drugs as part of what authorities called a lucrative drug and prostitution ring.
James Imbert, 25, Hendricks Berdet, 25, and Luis Viaud, 22, were “acting as a team to distribute narcotics and prostitute young women,” police said.
They were “victimizing the young women” inside the home and manipulating them to work as prostitutes for financial gain, police said.
Three other people were charged in connection to the raid. All six pleaded not guilty in Charlestown District Court, where defense attorneys criticized the prosecution’s case.
“There’s no evidence presented to anyone here that prostitution was going on,” said Joseph Perullo, who represented Imbert.
Prosecutors said Imbert had prior convictions for assault, breaking and entering, and resisting arrest.
Viaud’s lawyer said his client had never been to the home before Thursday, and that the charges against him were thin.
“He was only there for the party,” he said. “He’s someone sleeping in an apartment.”
Peter Pasciucco, assistant district attorney, said Viaud was a known drug dealer in the area with a 21-page criminal record in Florida.
“He’s essentially a danger to the community,” Pasciucco told the court. Viaud, who was held on $7,500 bail, shook his head defiantly as he looked on.
The defendants were ordered to stay away from one another and the Cambridge Street home. Of the $1,400 rent, the occupants paid just $200, police said. A housing voucher covered the rest, authorities said.
After receiving complaints from neighbors about drug and prostitution activity, drug investigators began surveillance on the home and observed “multiple individuals both male and female coming and going freely” from the home.
An undercover officer bought heroin from Imbert on two separate occasions, police said.
After obtaining a “no-knock” search warrant, police, led by a SWAT team, raided the home at 5 a.m. Thursday.
One suspect, 19-year-old Marcus Smith, was arrested in the bathroom, where police believed he had flushed drug evidence.
Peter Schworm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.