Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
A long-term investigation that involved the rare use of wiretaps by Suffolk County prosecutors led to the seizure of large amounts of deadly fentanyl, the arrests of 33 people, and the breaking up of a ring allegedly with a direct tie to the Sinaloa Mexican drug cartel, officials said.
The drug ring was allegedly led by Edward Soto-Perez of Roxbury, who Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said used counter-surveillance techniques with such success that Conley decided to get court approval for wiretaps.
“Soto-Perez was clever and extremely diligent in covering his tracks,” Conley said at a news conference Thursday. “He used couriers to make deliveries and take cash payments. He switched cars regularly to foil court-authorized GPS tracking. And he would make as many as five sudden turns in the span of a mile to spot police surveillance teams.”
The investigation involved the Drug Enforcement Administration as well as Boston, Braintree, and Randolph police, officials said.
In fall 2017, the first wiretap was approved by a Superior Court judge, and the information gleaned from subsequent coded telephone conversations convinced judges to extend the secretive evidence-collecting technique 11 times, leading police to tap more than two dozen phones, Conley said.
In all, 33 people are under arrest on a variety of drug-related charges, 18 of whom were taken into custody early Thursday in Boston and elsewhere. He said the 43-year-old Soto-Perez and the man authorities allege was the direct connection to the Mexican cartel — Robert Contreras, 42, of Roxbury — are both in custody.
Brief excerpts of wiretapped conversations show the suspects were allegedly speaking in code. During one call on Oct. 16, Contreras allegedly said to Soto-Perez, “I am here at one of my friends that I gave him a little picture of that same thing,” and authorities believe “picture” was code for a drug sample, prosecutors said.
Another suspect allegedly told Soto-Perez during a second coded conversation that day: “The musicians are being hired. I believe the contract was done today. And it’s coming next week, man.”
The authorities, Conley said, allege that the “Contreras Organization worked with members of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most powerful drug-trafficking organizations in the world, who imported huge quantities of narcotics into the Northeastern United States.”
“Investigators are still tallying the drugs and cash recovered Thursday, but we expect the overall seizures over the length of the investigation to weigh in at some 35 kilograms of narcotics and $300,000 in drug money,” Conley said.
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said in a statement that “these arrests and seizures will have a tremendous impact on the quality of life in Boston and many other Massachusetts cities and towns. The individuals arrested are responsible for pumping dangerous drugs into our communities.”
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