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Always Watching
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Federal agents and local police dismantled a $3 million New York City to Greater Springfield heroin ring after a two-month long investigation, according to court records.
Six men, including Luis Cotto, the owner of El Morro restaurant on Page Boulevard, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and aiding and abbeting in U.S. District Court.
The joint investigation yielded approximately $650,000 in cash seizures, 14 vehicles, four motorcycles, two firearms and one all-terrain vehicle, according to Springfield Police Sgt. John M. Delaney.
An affidavit seeking detention of six defendants - Cotto, William Torres, Walber Quinones, Tomas Vasquez, Andres Torres and Christian Gonzalez-Cruz, all of Springfield - indicated Cotto was the ringleader of a robust heroin ring.
The defendants allegedly moved four "significant loads" of heroin from New York to Springfield and Holyoke since March, according to a sworn statement by James Clifford, a special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Clifford described the Torres' and Cotto as "top-level" distributors with a small convoy of vehicles with hidden, hydraulic "traps" or "hides" in their cars and minivans.
DEA agents seized nearly $250,000 in cash stashed in a tan duffel bag in the back on a car bound for New York City on May 7, the affidavit states. Quninones and Gonzalez-Cruz were inside, records state.
"Both Quinones and Gonzalez-Cruz denied having any knowledge of the money," Clifford wrote.
Investigators including federal agents, Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee, Easthampton and state police staked out "stash locations" including storage units in Springfield and Chicopee, police said.
On May 23, investigators surveiled the defendants traveling from a South End gas station going south to New York City. The following day, agents concluded that William Torres brought a major heroin delivery to the Greater Springfield area and watched him and Andres Torres shuttle what they believed to be drug loads between a Chrysler Pacifica and a storage unit on Cadwell Street, the affidavit reads.
The two men were arrested that day with 900 grams of heroin, investigators say, which prompted a string of search warrants, according to the affidavit.
From Cotto, agents allegedly seized $100,000, drug ledgers and a loaded gun; from Quinones and unspecified amount of cash, ledgers and a gun; and from Vazquez, heroin, ledger and an unspecified amount of money.
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