30 charged in big bust of ‘major’ Providence/Mass drug ring

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The leaders of a large-scale heroin and fentanyl trafficking ring out of Providence were among 30 people arrested during a 10-month investigation by the Providence Police Intelligence and Organized Crime Unit, the department announced Thursday.

Johan Jimenez, 26, Mario Hernandez, 28, and Yosiel Rondon Vargas, 19, were all arrested on various charges related to the selling of fentanyl-laced heroin. Jiminez, who was considered the head of the operation, was also charged with possession of a firearm. Three other Providence residents who were charged, Yohanna Sanchez, Edwin Perez and Ana Perez, were also considered leaders of the group.

“Make no mistake about it, this is a significant, a major drug operation,” Police Chief Col. Hugh Clements said during a morning press conference at the city’s public safety complex. Clements referred to the group as “major league drug dealers.”

The investigation, dubbed “Operation Stop the Flow,” has resulted in 36 arrest warrants, with 30 individuals already charged. The six leaders of the drug ring all operated out of Providence, but 24 others were from Fall River. Police say they executed 13 search warrants and recovered $65,000 in cash and more than a kilogram of heroin during the investigation. Clements said a wire tap executed in March intercepted “thousands and thousands of phone calls” to and from the dealers.

Clements said the Providence dealers were selling bricks of heroin and fentanyl – roughly 50 doses – for $120 a piece to the Massachusetts residents, which Clements called a “very good bargain” for dealers. The lower-level dealers were then selling the drugs at a marked-up price in Massachusetts, he said.

Providence police worked closely with the Rhode Island attorney general’s office, Bristol County Sheriff’s Department, East Providence Police Department, Massachusetts State Police, Fall River Police Department, DEA and New England State Police Information Network during the investigation.

“The Providence Police Department, law enforcement in New England, will not stop,” Clements said. “We will be aggressive. We will proactively target drug dealers who are killing people in our communities, who are poisoning people in our communities.”

But Clements warned that the department’s chase of drug dealers is never complete. He said there is still plenty of heroin in the city.

“Because the game is so lucrative, drug dealers will keep stepping up,” he said.

Stay with Eyewitness News on air and online as we continue tracking the latest developments.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan