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Fifteen arrested in massive drug sting include Peabody man

In a massive drug sting that involved the arrests of 15 individuals, police also apprehended 31-year-old Peabody man Vladimir Arias (aka Orlando Robles, aka Franklin Arias). Arias is charged with conspiracy to distribute a kilogram or more of heroin and unlawful use of communication facilities in committing or facilitating the commission of felony, controlled substance offenses.

Arias was allegedly one of two middlemen in an international drug operation that spanned three states and was being heavily tracked by the FBI for the past seven months in a sting called “Operation Triple Play,” possibly referring to the three states involved: Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. According to the police, the operation was centered in Providence, R.I., and is referred to as the “Valdez Drug Trafficking Organization,” after the three Valdez siblings – Hector (47), Juan (50) and Claudio (44) – who ran the group, originally from the Dominican Republic. The trio had been deported four previous times for drug-trafficking convictions, and were also picked up in the sting.

Arias was allegedly one of at least three other “suppliers” that the group relied on to procure its drugs for sale, which included heroin, fentanyl and cocaine. The other members included references to a man called “the Maestro” located in the Dominican Republic, and “the Doctor,” who authorities believe is located in Mexico, along with another middleman in Providence. Reportedly, the group hid their drugs at “stash houses” in Rhode Island, specifically 103-105 Woodbine St. in Cranston and Apt. 3F at 87 Dulude Ave. in Woonsocket.

Police began making arrests on Monday (April 10), which included Arias, who was nabbed by R.I. state police as he drove back to Massachusetts on Route 95. He was allegedly found with close to a kg of heroin stashed in his car, probably from what police determined was a drug transaction earlier that day. Two other individuals who were not associated with the drug operation were apprehended on charges of immigration violations. The rest of the arrests, which commenced at 6 p.m. the next day, took nine others into custody.

In addition to the suspects, authorities reportedly seized fentanyl, cocaine and crack cocaine valuing $680,000 and $95,000 in cash, and nine vehicles.

Authorities say their success was based on video and audio evidence of drug transactions, wiretaps and searching through the suspects’ trash, in addition to two informants. One suspect remains at large.

“As alleged, the Valdez brothers trafficked in all types of drugs and profited from the addictions that have destroyed lives and torn apart families here in New England,” said Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Field Division, in a press release dated April 13. “This case illustrates that drug cartels based in foreign countries will go anywhere to distribute their deadly products. The FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force will do everything it can to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations that threaten the safety and stability of our neighborhoods.”

The case is especially notable given the new president’s increased focus on fighting the illegal drug trade, which he argues is propagated mainly by illegal immigrants. Just days earlier, Attorney General Jeff Sessions had sent a memo to state Attorneys General asking them to focus on just that. Sessions praised the arrests as a step in that direction.

“The President has made the dismantlement and destruction of drug cartels a top priority, and cases like these are integral in that effort,” Sessions said. “When law enforcement – federal, state and local – work together like these partners in Rhode Island, we will be one step closer to fulfilling this goal and protecting our communities.”

The illegal drug trade brings in an estimated 150 billion dollars in revenue in North America and 360 billion worldwide, according to the D.C.--based Organization of American States statistics.

By Melanie Higgins

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