Eleven accused members of a Boston-based drug-trafficking organization have been arrested, with one alleged leader held on $1 million cash bail at his arraignment on a raft of narcotics charges, Acting Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, and Special Agent in Charge Vincent Lisi of the FBI’s Boston Division said today.
The arrests came amid Operation Whirlwind, a wiretap-based offshoot of an earlier federal investigation. The operation led to the seizure of some $40,000 in cash, an additional $800 in counterfeit US currency, two illegal firearms, and just under a kilogram of heroin. Seven defendants were arrested yesterday morning; four more were already in custody, having been arrested on various dates throughout the investigation.
“This operation demonstrates BPD's continued commitment to reducing violence by getting drugs and guns off our streets,” Commissioner Evans said. “These arrests are part of ongoing operations to rid our neighborhoods of drug dealers and the violence that goes hand in hand with their illegal activities.”
After months of investigation, Boston Police and FBI special agents executed 10 search warrants at eight locations in Dorchester, Hyde Park, Roslindale, and the South End and arrested seven people on warrants out of Suffolk Superior Court. Those arrests are in addition to four previous arrests based on evidence developed earlier in the investigation.
“Because of these arrests, neighborhoods in Boston and several surrounding cities and towns are safer now than yesterday,” Special Agent in Charge Lisi said. “Working together, our team of law enforcement agencies will always beat those whose purpose is to deal drugs and commit violence in our neighborhoods.”
Investigators utilized confidential sources, controlled buys, extensive surveillance, strategic arrests, and all the traditional methods of investigation, authorities said, but those methods only got them so far.
“To reach the top of the trafficking pyramid,” Conley said, “we went to a Superior Court judge – not once, not twice, but on eight separate occasions to intercept the communications of top-level drug traffickers. This is the result. A wiretap is a powerful tool, but we can do more with it. Countless times, we’ve hit the same brick wall in murder investigations that we hit in narcotics investigations, but we have no recourse. We can’t go up on a wire in those cases until the Legislature amends the outdated 1968 wiretap statute. We aren’t asking for less judicial oversight. We aren’t asking for a lower evidentiary threshold. We aren’t asking to go on fishing expeditions or violate the privacy we all enjoy under the Constitution. All we ask is to bring the same tools to bear on a murder investigation as we do on a drug investigation.”
Arrested Dec. 5 were:
1. FRANCISCO ARIAS (D.O.B. 9/24/81) of Roslindale, held on $1 million cash bail on six counts of conspiracy to violate the state’s drug laws, four counts of trafficking in heroin, and one count each of money laundering and possession of a counterfeit note;
2. VLADIMIR ARIAS-SANTANA (D.O.B. 2/19/85) of Roslindale, held without bail until his arraignmentMonday on two counts of conspiracy to violate the state’s drug laws and single counts of possession of a Class A substance with intent to distribute and money laundering;
3. MIGUEL DIAZ (D.O.B. 5/19/81) of Roxbury, released on his own recognizance on charges of trafficking in heroin and two counts of conspiracy to violate the state’s drug laws;
4. NERYS SANTANA (D.O.B. 5/15/61) of Roslindale, released on her own recognizance on counts of conspiracy to violate the state’s drug laws and money laundering;
5. PALOMA SANTOS (D.O.B. 9/23/92) of Hyde Park, released on her own recognizance on one count of conspiracy to violate the state’s drug laws;
6. ROCIO SANTOS (D.O.B. 3/21/90) of Roslindale, released on her own recognizance on one count of conspiracy to violate the state’s drug laws; and
7. DEBORAH SERRET (D.O.B. 9/5/64) of the South End, held on $10,000 cash bail on two counts each of conspiracy to violate the state’s drug laws and trafficking in heroin.
Arrested on previous dates were:
8. ELVIN MALDONADO (D.O.B. 3/10/76) of Hyde Park, currently in custody on OUI charges and expected to be charged with trafficking in heroin, conspiracy to violate the state’s drug laws, and two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm as a second offense;
9. ELIONEL BURGOS (D.O.B. 10/18/94) of Hyde Park, currently in custody on complaints charging trafficking in heroin and now also the subject of a complaint charging conspiracy to violate the state’s drug laws;
10. PEDRO HERNANDEZ (D.O.B. 7/26/76) of Lawrence, currently in custody on a complaint charging trafficking in heroin and now also the subject of a complaint charging conspiracy to violate the state’s drug laws;
11. CHRISTIAN ROJAS (D.O.B. 2/26/79) of Roslindale, currently in custody on charges of trafficking in heroin and now also the subject of a complaint charging conspiracy to violate the state’s drug laws.
Evidence developed during the past three and a half months suggests that Arias and Maldonado – an accessory after the fact to the 2002 shooting death of 25-year-old Pedro Vargas – maintained a drug trafficking organization that moved large quantities of heroin in Boston. Arias’ brother, Arias-Santana, allegedly managed their street-level distribution. Their mother, Santana, allegedly allowed them to use her Brookway Road residence to meet with customers and stash money or drugs.
About $10,000 in cash was recovered from Santana’s residence when Boston Police and FBI special agents executed a search warrant there yesterday morning. An additional $28,000 in cash was recovered from Santana-Arias’ girlfriend’s Roxbury home. About $2,000 in cash and $800 in counterfeit bills were recovered from Arias’ Seymour Street residence, and more than 40 grams of heroin and almost $3,000 were recovered from a hidden compartment at a Hyde Park Avenue residence where Arias frequently stayed.
Serrett, Hernandez, Burgos, and Rojas were allegedly high level customers, all previously arrested with trafficking-weight quantities of the primary targets’ heroin. The Santos sisters were allegedly knowing participants who aided Arias in the drug enterprise. Diaz was allegedly a collaborating dealer who ran his own distribution network. Large quantities of cash and heroin, along with a grinder bearing heroin residue, were recovered at their homes.
Arias-Santana and others are additionally charged under Massachusetts’ money laundering statute, which covers an offender who “directs, organizes, finances, plans, manages, supervises or controls the transportation of, or transactions in, monetary instruments or other property known to be derived from criminal activity.”