PROVIDENCE – Two East Providence police officers and another from Pawtucket were among 17 law enforcement officers and federal prosecutors honored Friday with a top U.S. Department of Justice award for curbing narcotics trafficking on the state’s “Heroin Highway,” the U.S. Attorney’s office announced.
The notorious stretch of I-195 from Providence to Cape Cod has been used for many years to transport heroin to street-level drug dealers and drug users, federal prosecutors say.
“People ask, ‘Why do we continue this war on drugs?’” said U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha. “Because all illegal drugs, and especially heroin, ruin people’s lives, and not only the lives of the people using them. They lay waste to human potential, and cause violent and other crime.”
The officers recognized for their work to reduce heroin trafficking represent, “Law enforcement at its very best,” Neronha said.
Over the past two years, a multi-agency team of law enforcement officers have employed a variety of techniques to choke off narcotics trafficking on the Heroin Highway, Neronha said. The team included members of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the R.I. DEA Drug Task Force, Homeland Security Investigations, Rhode Island State Police, and the Providence, Warwick, East Providence, Newport, Pawtucket and Cranston police departments.
The effort resulted in the arrest of 32 individuals, ranging from street level drug dealers to high level Mexican, Dominican and Guatemalan heroin traffickers. Law enforcement has seized more than 5 kilos of heroin, more than 6 kilos of cocaine and assets totaling at least $609,000.
It is believed that the individuals arrested during “Operation Heroin Highway” were supplying as much as 60 percent of the heroin distributed along I-195 East from Providence to Cape Cod.
In a ceremony at the U.S. Attorney’s Office Friday, Neronha joined Associate Deputy Attorney General James H. Dinan, Director of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF); John J. Arvanitis, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New England Field Division; and J. Michael Netherland, Deputy Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), to recognize the members of the New England Regional OCDETF for outstanding contributions to cooperative law enforcement and to the OCDETF Program.
“I commend all the federal, state and local law enforcement agents and officers for their tireless efforts to combat drug trafficking in our communities and for receiving this prestigious award," said Netherland, who heads of HSI’s Boston office. "These drug traffickers commit violent crimes and terrorize our neighborhoods. Disrupting and dismantling their activities is a top priority for HSI.”
The OCDETF Program was established in 1982 as a multi-agency, nationwide effort to pursue intelligence-driven, coordinated multi-jurisdictional investigations of criminal organizations trafficking drugs and laundering the illicit proceeds of crime. The OCDETF Program forms the centerpiece of the DOJ counter-narcotics strategy and is also the platform through which the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Treasury pursue complex drug and drug-related money laundering investigations.
The honorees included DEA Special Agent Kevin Eaton; DEA Special Agent Dave Carnevale; DEA Special Agent Alex Koumanelis; DEA Special Agent James McCormack; DEA Special Agent Robyn Meletis; DEA Analyst Andrea Metz; DEA Drug Task Force Officer Dennis Smith, Pawtucket Police Department; DEA Drug Task Force Officer Mike Naylor, Newport Police Department; DEA Drug Task Force Officer Robert Page, Warwick Police Department; DEA Drug Task Force Officer Mike Masaitis, East Providence Police Department; DEA Drug Task Force Officer Juan Robles, Providence Police Department; DEA Drug Task Force Officer Dennis Fleming, Rhode Island State Police; Special Agent Michael Carvalho, Homeland Security Investigations; Det. Darren Ellinwood, East Providence Police Department; Sgt. Diogo Mello, East Providence Police Department; Lt. Russ Henry, Cranston Police Department; Assistant U.S. Attorney Adi Goldstein, deputy criminal chief.