WOONSOCKET – Less than three weeks after the local police announced 20 drug-trafficking arrests, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has followed up with 18 more.
The arrests were the result of a long-term investigation dubbed “Operation River Fork” carried out by the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, which involves undercover police officers from Woonsocket, Pawtucket, Central Falls and other municipal departments, U.S. Attorney Aaron Weisman said in a statement released late Thursday.
Of all those arrested, only five have addresses outside the city. Weisman said 15 of the suspects have prior felony convictions for drug trafficking, firearms offenses, or both.
Though the investigation began some 10 months ago, with a focus on the city, it expanded to include Providence, Warwick and Cranston.
Most of the arrests took place on Wednesday and Thursday, after months of undercover work in which agents made 47 controlled buys involving narcotics and weapons.
In addition to the contraband they collected during the course of the probe, investigators seized three more loaded firearms, 350 grams of crack cocaine, 130 grams of fentanyl, 120 grams of powder cocaine and $122,000 in cash as they rounded up the suspects just this week, Weisman said.
The arrests represent three separate drug-trafficking conspiracies involving a total of nine individuals.
“It is unfortunate, and really distressing, that defendants with previous criminal histories would remain undeterred from continuing to deal in drugs and, in some instances, even firearms,” said Weisman.
“Thanks to the exemplary, and truly heroic, work of our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, these alleged bad actors, who endanger our neighborhoods and threaten our families with gun and drug violence, now face the prospect of significant incarceration in federal prison.”
Joseph Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston Division, said the arrests are a demonstration of the agency’s commitment to curbing drug-related violence.
“Hard-working citizens of Rhode Island should not be handcuffed by fear of getting caught in the crosshairs of a drug deal.”
The list of suspects includes Anthony Medeiros, 29, Bradley Dewalt, 28, Michael Fernandes, 27, Mariah Raymond, 26, Josue Gomez Sanchez, 26, Juan Batista, 35, and Natalie Cassidy, 26. All Woonsocket residents, they’re facing multiple counts of drug trafficking and conspiracy.
Also, Jose Perez, 27, Michael Wilkerson, 36, Bruce Perez Gonzalez, 25, and Josimar Pereira, 24, all of Woonscket, were arrested on drug trafficking charges.
Brady Robinson, 26, and Alfonso Merced, 35, both of Woonscket, were held on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Others taken into custody on narcotics charges were Joel Figueroa, 24, of Providence, Ricardo Pierre, 41, of Warwick, Ronnie Smith, 32, of Cranston, Michael Rodriguez, 25, of Providence and Angel Aviles, 22, of Cranston.
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