Federal and local law enforcement dismantled a large regional drug-trafficking organization based in New Haven on Tuesday, confiscating one kilogram of powder cocaine and arresting 21 suspects.
The joint law enforcement operation was the culmination of an 11-month investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Hamden and New Haven Police Departments. Twenty-one individuals were arrested and charged with various federal narcotics distribution charges in relation to a large-scale cocaine and crack cocaine trafficking ring, U.S. Attorney spokesman Tom Carson said in a press release. NHPD Chief Frank Limon said the bust was only one component of a city-wide attempt to curb drug and gang violence.
“A federal investigation like this has a big impact for an area like Newhallville,” Limon in an interview with News Wednesday. “[It will positively] affect the quality of life and the level of street violence in the area.”
A federal grand jury sitting in New Haven released a 20-count indictment for 37 individuals Nov. 10, leading to the arrests.
Carson said the organization was allegedly run by Joseph Jackson (also known as “Mighty” and “M.I.”), 34, a resident of Winchester Avenue only two blocks from Science Hill. He added that the organization was primarily based in the Newhallville area, but allegedly distributed narcotics thoughout the greater New Haven area.
Nine defendants, including Jackson, had already been arrested between Oct. 28 and Nov. 1, and seven individuals are still being sought by the authorities, Carson wrote.
Limon said at the announcement of the arrests that the operation was part of a larger measure to cooperate with the local and federal authorities in addressing drugs, gangs and gun violence.
“We are all too familiar with the destructive effects of drug trafficking in our cities,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut David B. Fein said in the Tuesday announcement of the arrests.
Carson wrote that charges range from 18 individuals arrested for conspiracy to distribute more than 28 grams of cocaine base to Jackson’s charge of possession with intent to distribute the narcotics. He added that, if convicted, these defendants each faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, and a maximum of 40 years with a fine of up to $2 million.
Jackson and several other individuals are also charged with conspiracy to distribute other seized narcotic quantities including 500 grams of powder cocaine, Carson wrote. All told, officials seized approximately one kilogram of cocaine, more than 150 grams of crack cocaine, approximately $75,000 in cash, six vehicles, two motorcycles, and two firearms, according to the release.
“This indictment and today’s arrests are an example of the cooperative effort of law enforcement in Connecticut,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Kimberly K. Mertz. “… The FBI New Haven’s Safe Street Task Force will continue to work closely with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to combat gang activity in the Greater New Haven area.”
This gang activity has been one of the primary foci for Limon since he assumed control of the NHPD in April, he said. Yet despite the success of Tuesday’s operation, there is still more work to be done, he added.
Limon said that he is working with other members of the NHPD to identify and target the crime “hot-spots” in the city. He added that he saw the drug trade and the issue of gangs as being connected. This initiative would include the tactical narcotics unit of the NHPD.
In March 2007, federal agents arrested narcotics unit head Lt. Billy White and narcotics detective Justen Kasperzyk following an investigation into theft of government funds, criminal conspiracy and bribery. After the arrests, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and then-police Chief Francisco Ortiz dissolved the narcotics department; it was only reestablished by former Chief James Lewis in Sept. 2008. Limon is a veteran of the Chicago Police Department, where he headed the Organized Crime Division.