Thirteen people were charged, 11 of whom were arrested, on Tuesday as part of a monthslong investigation into a drug ring in Providence, according to the US attorney’s office for Rhode Island.
Eight search warrants were carried out in a series of pre-dawn raids by FBI agents that yielded more than more than 500 grams of fentanyl and two guns, the office said in a statement.
Before Tuesday, investigators had seized more than 600 grams of fentanyl, 610 fentanyl pills, 67 grams of crack cocaine, 102 grams of cocaine, and a gun in the probe.
The investigation, called Operation Bloodline, started in June, when an FBI task force “developed information regarding the alleged drug trafficking activities” of Hector Rivera, 40, of Central Falls, according to the statement.
On June 19, authorities allege Rivera delivered 50 grams of fentanyl while he was being watched by the task force. At that meeting, authorities allege the person who was buying fentanyl from Rivera was introduced to Rafael Ferrer, 39, of Providence.
Over the next several weeks, Ferrer and Rivera jointly completed two more fentanyl deliveries, which were seized by law enforcement, authorities said.
The probe continued, and investigators determined that “a long list of individuals were allegedly associated with Ferrer, including members of his family.”
“Law enforcement determined that drugs were allegedly being stored and prepared for delivery by members of the conspiracy in at least two Providence residences,” the statement said.
Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston division, said in the statement that “dealing drugs was a family affair, and for their suppliers a very dangerous one, as illustrated by the firearms we seized throughout the course of investigation.”
“And if that’s not troubling enough, we allege at least two of these drug dealers were playing Russian roulette with people’s lives, pushing pills that were disguised as prescription painkillers, when they were really fentanyl,” he said.
Officials watched transactions take place at homes, in the streets, and in parking lots of businesses in Providence.
“The combination of deadly drugs and illegal firearms has destroyed too many lives, ruined too many families, and rendered once safe neighborhoods dangerous places to live and raise families,” said United States Attorney for Rhode Island Aaron L. Weisman in a statement.
He continued, “This significant operation demonstrates that our federal law enforcement agencies, and their critical state and local partners, will act aggressively to protect our neighborhoods from being inundated with deadly illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin, and especially fentanyl, which has already claimed the lives of well over a thousand Rhode Islanders.”
DEA special-agent-in-charge Brian D. Boyle said opioid abuse is “at epidemic levels in New England.” He hoped Tuesday’s arrests would serve as an “example to those who distribute poisons . . . that [the] DEA will aggressively pursue and hold you accountable.”
“Illegal drug distribution ravages the very foundations of our families and communities here in Rhode Island,” he said in a statement.