Two Dozen Individuals Charged with Hartford-Area Narcotics Trafficking Offenses
|U.S. Attorney’s Office March 06, 2009|
Nora R. Dannehy, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Kimberly K. Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, today announced that a federal grand jury sitting in New Haven has returned an Indictment charging 24 individuals with various offenses related to the distribution of cocaine and heroin in and around Hartford. The Indictment was returned on February 24 and was unsealed yesterday, March 5.
The Indictment stems from “Operation Solid Gold,” a joint law enforcement investigation headed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Northern Connecticut Violent Crimes Task Force. The nine-month investigation included the use of court-authorized wiretaps, controlled purchases of cocaine and heroin, and physical surveillance.
The Indictment charges a conspiracy to distribute heroin throughout Hartford County between June 2008 and February 2009. The Indictment also charges two conspiracies to distribute cocaine throughout the Hartford area between June 2008 and February 2009 and between December 2008 and February 2009, respectively.
Charged in various counts of the Indictment are:
YUNIOR BENAVIDES, a.k.a. “Junior,” 32, of Evergreen Street, Hartford;
ARIEL JOSE GIL, a.k.a. “Jose Ortiz Berrios” and “Jose Ortiz del Rio,” 31, of Capitol Avenue, Hartford;
JUAN CARLOS MONSERRATE, a.k.a. “Juancito,” 19, of Capitol Avenue, Hartford;
HIPOLITO MANUEL GUTIERREZ, a.k.a. “Manuelito,” 55, of Hillside Avenue, Hartford;
ANGEL GUTIERREZ, a.k.a. “Rubio” and “Gringo,” 32, of Beacon Street, Hartford;
ELIZABETH CASTRO, a.k.a. “Rubia” and “Blonde,” 34, of Beacon Street, Hartford;
JOSE CARABALLO, a.k.a. “Vidal” and “El Baboso,” 41, of Nahum Drive, Hartford;
MARIBEL DE LA CRUZ, a.k.a. “Mari,” 36, of Corey Street, Windsor;
NAZARIEL GONZALEZ, a.k.a. “Pito,” 28, of Crown Street, Hartford;
JEFFREY KIRK, 45, of Grove Street, Middletown;
IGNACIO MEJIA, a.k.a. “Junior,” “June” and “Gordo,” 33, of Newton Street, Hartford;
KEVIN MENDEZ, 31, of 136 Flatbush Avenue, Hartford;
CLEMENTE QUIROZ, 42 of 86 Webster Street, Hartford;
MANUEL RIOS, a.k.a. “Manolo” and “Verdugo,” 30, of Brookfield Street, Hartford;
CANDIDO ROMERO, 51, of 289 Wethersfield Avenue, Hartford;
WANDA ABILA, a.k.a. “Wanda Avila,” 32 of Henry Street, Hartford;
LUCIANO MELENDEZ, a.k.a. “Ponce” and “June,” 41 of Henry Street, Hartford;
RUDIAL CARDONA, a.k.a. “Durango,” of Vine Street, Hartford;
REYNALDO LAUREANO, a.k.a. "Pichy," 35, of Allen Place, Hartford;
ARMANDO LAUREANO, a.k.a. “Pepin,” 33, of Allen Place, Hartford;
CARLOS CRUZ, a.k.a. “Carlos Cruz Rivera,” 38, of Madison Street, Hartford;
JOSE NEGRON, a.k.a. “Miguel Correa” and “Mikey,” 38, of Hartford;
ROBERTO RIOS, a.k.a. “Robbie,” 23, of Wadsworth Street, Hartford, and
LUIS VELEZ, a.k.a. “The Mechanic,” 34, of Flatbush Avenue, Hartford.
At the time of the arrest of these defendants, which occurred throughout February, Task Force agents executed five search warrants and seized narcotics, cash, vehicles, and a firearm.
“I want to acknowledge the incredibly hard work and commitment of the FBI, the Connecticut State Police, the Hartford Police, and all of the federal, state and local law enforcement officers who participated in the lengthy investigation of this matter and today’s arrests,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Dannehy. “Federal penalties for distributing heroin and cocaine are severe, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our federal partners will continue to work with local and state law enforcement to break up narcotics trafficking rings and vigorously prosecute their participants.”
If convicted, a number of the defendants face a minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years, a maximum term of life, and fines of up to $4,000,000. Due to prior narcotics trafficking convictions, a number of defendants face increased penalties.
“The FBI is committed to working with our federal state and local law enforcement partners to address violent crime in Connecticut’s cities, and I want to recognize and express appreciation for the invaluable work of the Connecticut State Police, the Hartford Police Department, and the Connecticut Department of Correction,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Mertz.
Acting United States Attorney Dannehy stressed that an indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Each defendant is entitled to a fair trial at which it is the Government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Northern Connecticut Violent Crimes Task Force, the Statewide Cooperative Crime Control Task Force of the Connecticut State Police and the Hartford Police Department, with assistance from the Statewide Organized Crime Investigative Task Force of the Connecticut State Police, Connecticut State Police, Troop H, and the Connecticut Department of Correction. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Brian P. Leaming and Geoffrey M. Stone.