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Thirteen Charged, Eight Search Warrants Executed, More Than A Thousand Grams of Fentanyl and Three Firearms Seized in Project Safe Neighborhoods Investigation

PROVIDENCE – Thirteen individuals have been charged, eleven of which are in custody, and eight federal court-authorized search warrants were executed today in a series of FBI Safe Streets Task Force led pre-dawn law enforcement actions, culminating a six-month Project Safe Neighborhoods Investigation into the trafficking of significant quantities of fentanyl and other drugs in Providence.

Today, law enforcement agents and officers seized more than 500 grams of fentanyl and two firearms during the pre-dawn raids. Prior to today, the Safe Street Task Force investigation resulted in the seizure of more than 600 grams of fentanyl, 610 fentanyl pills, 67 grams of crack cocaine, 102 grams of cocaine, and a firearm.

  According to court documents, all but one of the individuals charged today have had previous law enforcement contact, many convicted on multiple occasions in Rhode Island state court on drug trafficking and other violent crime charges. Several of the defendants are currently serving suspended or probationary sentences.

“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,” commented United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman. “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.”

“Dealing deadly 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,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “The FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force is laser-focused on stopping individuals like those we arrested today from peddling their poisons and polluting our neighborhoods with illegal firearms.”

“Opioid abuse is at epidemic levels in New England,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Boyle.  “Illegal drug distribution ravages the very foundations of our families and communities here in Rhode Island.  Let these arrests serve as an example to those who distribute poisons like fentanyl, crack-cocaine and cocaine, that DEA will aggressively pursue and hold you accountable.  This investigation demonstrates the strength and continued commitment of our local, state and federal law enforcement partners.”

According to court documents and information presented to the Court, this investigation, dubbed Operation Bloodline,” began in June of 2019, when the members of the FBI Safe Streets Task Force developed information regarding the alleged drug trafficking activities of Hector Rivera, 40, of Central Falls. On June 19, 2019, Rivera allegedly delivered 50 grams of fentanyl while being surveilled by members of the Safe Street Task Force. At that same meeting, it is alleged that the individual purchasing the fentanyl from Rivera was introduced to Rafael Ferrer, 39, of Providence. It is alleged that within the next several weeks two additional deliveries of fentanyl were delivered jointly by Ferrer and Rivera. Each delivery of fentanyl was immediately seized by law enforcement.

Over the next several months, as the investigation continued, it was determined by law enforcement 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.

Transactions surveilled by law enforcement took place at homes, in the streets, and in parking lots of businesses in Providence. Little effort was made to conceal the transactions.

Project Safe Neighborhoods is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

A criminal complaint is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stacey P. Veroni and Gerard B Sullivan.

United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman acknowledges and thanks the many law enforcement agencies that provided manpower and resources to this investigation, including the many law enforcement member agencies of the FBI’s Safe Street Violent Gang Task Force and the DEA’s Rhode Island Drug Task Force. 

The FBI’s Safe Streets Violent Gang Task Force consists of agents and law enforcement officers from the FBI, the Rhode Island State Police, the Providence, Cranston, Woonsocket, Pawtucket, and Central Falls Police Departments, R.I. Department of Corrections, and the Rhode Island National Guard.

The Rhode Island DEA Drug Task Force is comprised of law enforcement personnel from DEA, Rhode Island State Police, and the East Providence, Central Falls, Coventry, Cranston, Newport, North Kingstown, Pawtucket, Providence, South Kingstown, Warwick, West Warwick and Woonsocket Police Departments.

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