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Police arrest 12 in trafficking ring ‘moving cocaine throughout Middlesex County’

A dozen people were arrested Thursday after a wiretap investigation revealed a drug trafficking operation that was moving kilograms of cocaine throughout Middlesex County, the district attorney’s office announced in a statement.

A monthlong investigation revealed an operation that led police to the seizure of two kilograms of suspected cocaine, two handguns, several pounds of marijuana, a number of other narcotics, and over $300,000.

Police executed 12 search warrants Thursday in Lowell, Lawrence, Dracut, and Tewksbury, seizing cocaine, marijuana, cash, MDMA (ecstasy), oxycodone, Percocet, Suboxone, a Taurus 9mm handgun, and a Glock 40 handgun.

The men ranged in age from 20 to 37, and all but one resided in Lowell. All 12 are scheduled to be arraigned Friday in Lowell District Court, the statement said.

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“This complicated large-scale investigation involved identifying members of a trafficking conspiracy at every level of the supply chain from bulk wholesalers to street-level dealers. During the course of the investigation evidence was also gathered with respect to other dangerous conduct allegedly being engaged in by these individuals,” Middlesex Distict Attorney Marian Ryan said in the statement.

Police are calling Joseph Alicea, a.k.a. “Duda”, 30, of Lowell the ring leader of the operation, citing his arrest in 2016 for heroin trafficking, the statement said.

“During his time in prison Alicea allegedly continued to run his drug trafficking business,” the district attorney’s office said. “Alicea was allegedly actively trafficking kilogram quantities of cocaine, including purchasing cocaine from suppliers, and cutting, cooking and packaging it for resale to customers either by personally delivering or delegating the delivery to others.”

After he was released from prison, police resumed the investigation and began the wiretap. They discovered Alicea was also working with his significant other, Marisol Ortiz, and more than a dozen other people, the statement said.

“These individuals participated in the conspiracy by assisting Alicea in packaging and distributing the controlled substances. These individuals would also distribute cocaine in transactions brokered by Alicea, and to their own customers,” the DA’s office said.

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Additional warrants are being sought, and the investigation is ongoing, the district attorney’s office said.


Sabrina Schnur can be reached at sabrina.schnur@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sabrina_schnur.