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‘Boss of bosses’ gets 20 years for running massive drug ring

Operation Triple Play has landed a “boss of bosses” in federal prison for 20 years for his role in a sprawling family operation that moved drugs from Mexico to Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, prosecutors said Friday.

Juan Valdez, 51, of Milton was sentenced during a hearing Friday in US District Court in Providence, according to the office of Rhode Island US Attorney Stephen G. Dambruch.

His lawyer couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Valdez pleaded guilty in July to charges of conspiracy to distribute a kilogram or more of heroin, cocaine, cocaine base, and fentanyl, and illegal reentry after deportation, according to prosecutors and legal filings.

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In a statement, Dambruch’s office said Valdez and his two brothers ran the Valdez Drug Trafficking Organization, which arranged for “numerous” multi-kilogram shipments of heroin and cocaine from Mexico to stash houses in Cranston, R.I., and Woonsocket, R.I.

Once the contraband was cut, it was supplied to mid-level and street-level dealers in the Providence and Boston areas as well as Hartford, Conn., the release said.

And the cash poured in.

The feds seized $180,040 from the floor of a “shrine room” at a stash house on Woodbine Street in Cranston on April 10, 2017, plus another $169,505 from a hidden compartment in the kitchen floor, records show.

The following day, investigators seized another $1,465 from the Cranston address, as well as a separate haul of $8,598 from a Milton residence, according to legal filings.

Valdez was ordered to forfeit the cash to the government following his guilty plea.

Prosecutors also said the ring dealt in opioids in pill form; the crew apparently got tripped up by a cooperating source.

According to the plea agreement, Valdez, his brothers, and a woman named Tanya Croteau “personally delivered cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, heroin containing fentanyl and fentanyl to a cooperating source for which they were paid a total of $43,670.”

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The drug ring also had a few customers and suppliers with colorful nicknames, including individuals identified as “The Cousin” in Boston, “The Maestro” in the Dominican Republic, and two others dubbed “The Doctor” and “The Mexican,” according to court records.

Valdez was “previously deported from the United States on four occasions and has not received permission to reenter the country,” the agreement said.

His brothers, Claudio and Hector, both of Woonsocket, haven’t fared much better in court.

Claudio Valdez, 46, received a 20-year term on Nov. 28, and Hector Valdez, 45, is slated for sentencing on Jan. 18, the release said. The feds called the probe “Operation Triple Play,” in reference to the three brothers.

All three now have immigration detainers lodged against them, meaning they’ll be subject to deportation after they serve their time.

“During the course of Operation Triple Play, which the FBI Safe Streets Task Force launched in September 2016, the investigation into the Valdez Drug Trafficking Operation resulted in the purchases or seizures of laboratory tested and confirmed controlled substances totaling approximately 142g of crack cocaine, 1,654g of cocaine, 3,836g of heroin (of which 2,183.3g contained fentanyl), 3,493g of fentanyl, and more than 137 lbs. (62 kilograms) of cutting agents,” said the release from Dambruch’s office.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.