Lt. Jeffrey Silva of the New Bedford Police Department holds a gun seized in the drug raid Thursday in the South End.
By Brian Fraga
Standard-Times staff writer
July 26, 2008 6:00 AM
NEW BEDFORD - Police say they arrested the "Wal-mart of drug distributors" this week in busting up an apparent marijuana trafficking operation in the South End.
Executing a search warrant Thursday night at 27 Jouvette St., narcotics detectives seized nearly 130 pounds of marijuana, $4,000 in cash, two firearms, five cell phones, digital scales, a money counter and a paperback "Marijuana Grower's Handbook."
Police arrested Nuno DaCunha, 31, and Nicole Reis, 26, both of 27 Jouvette St. They are charged with marijuana trafficking, illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, and conspiracy. Arraigned Friday, they were detained until a July 29 dangerousness hearing in District Court.
Police also arrested Brian Avila, 28, of 47 Westwood Drive, Dartmouth, who arrived at the Jouvette Street residence while detectives were still executing the search warrant. He had $2,000 in cash and was allegedly planning to buy drugs. He was arraigned Friday on drug charges and held on $5,000 bail.
The main target of the three-month investigation was Mr. DaCunha, a legal immigrant from Portugal whom police described as a "big player" in the local drug distribution scene.
"This is a significant seizure for the SouthCoast. These people were dealing narcotics from New Bedford to Fall River into Rhode Island," police spokesman Lt. Jeffrey P. Silva said.
Inside the house, detectives found pictures of Mr. DaCunha and his girlfriend, Ms. Reis, holding guns at a firing range. Neither had a firearms identification card or a license to carry, police said.
The couple also had two children, 2 and 6, inside the house. The Department of Social Services was contacted and did an emergency intervention, police said.
Detectives also seized a ledger showing how much marijuana individual customers were sold. A seized laptop and the cell phones could further the investigation and lead to more arrests.
The lead detective in the case was Candido Trinidad.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," Lt. Silva said.
Displayed on an evidence table Friday were six bales of marijuana, approximately 20 pounds each, that officials said appeared to have come directly from the Southwest border near Mexico. Next to them were several "dime bags" and other quantities of marijuana packaged for street sales.
Combined, the marijuana had an estimated street value of $500,000. Police said the 130 pounds, or 60 kilograms, would have cost Mr. DaCunha around $125,000 to acquire.
Lt. Silva described Mr. DaCunha as the "Wal-mart of drug distributors" because he dealt marijuana in small quantities for individual consumption as well as larger amounts for supplying dealers.
"This was an extensive operation that had quite an impact on the community," he said.
It was the second large-scale marijuana bust this year in the South End. In March, narcotics detectives seized 65 pounds of marijuana and packaging materials from a Capitol Street residence. Timothy L. Almeida, 27, was charged with trafficking and conspiracy.
Detectives executed the search warrant on Mr. DaCunha's apartment just after 8 p.m. Thursday. They saw Mr. DaCunha arriving in a GMC Denali and running inside the house with large plastic trash bags. The bales of marijuana were later found inside similar trash bags, police said.