For Immediate Release - November 09, 2009

Essex County Drug Sweep Results In 156 Arrests

A month-long drug sweep in Essex County by a cadre of law enforcement agencies has resulted in the arrests of 156 defendants, and the seizure of more than 54 kilos of cocaine, 138 grams of heroin and 6 firearms. The cocaine itself has an ultimate street value of $5.4 million.

Focusing primarily on the cities of Lawrence, Lynn, Methuen and Haverhill, the sweep was coordinated by Massachusetts State Police Lt. Alan Zani, commander of the Essex County Drug Task Force assigned to the Office of District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett. Detectives from each of those cities were joined by members of the Drug Enforcement Agency, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, ICE, the FBI Gang Unit, Massachusetts State Police Gang Unit, the Essex County Sheriff's Department, and the State Police Troop A Community Action Team.

In addition, members of the Massachusetts State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section and officials from the Lawrence, Lynn and Haverhill District Court Probation Departments took part in the early to mid-morning raids, when fugitives were arrested on warrants and/or defendants were arrested for probation violations.

"We launched this collaborative sweep to target street drug sales in Essex County, and to reduce the troubling level of violent crimes being committed in our cities," said District Attorney Blodgett. "Where there are drugs, there are firearms and acts of violence. We will vigorously pursue and prosecute dealers who would sell drugs to our children, and will continue to work with every local, state and federal agency to ensure the safety of our citizens."

Of the 156 people arrested, 75 were charged with drug distribution or trafficking. Police served 13 search warrants and took six guns off the streets since the raids began on September 28, and concluded on October 30. They also seized five motor vehicles and 4-7 pounds of marijuana.

"An important part of the mission of the State Police is the ability to flood targeted areas with large numbers of personnel to assist our local partners and the district attorney," said Colonel Mark F. Delaney, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police. "Our Essex County surge achieved that goal - to take lawbreakers, and the weapons and vehicles they use and the drugs they sell, off the streets."

Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger said, "I'm thankful to all the partners we were working with. We were able to identify specific targets that were significantly impacting the quality of life in Lynn and get them off the streets. As we have in the past, we plan to continue these collaborative efforts."

Lawrence Police Chief John Romero noted, "Drugs fuel most of the crime that takes place in Lawrence, and this sweep will certainly impact crime in the city."

Haverhill Police Chief Alan DiNaro said, "We are thrilled at the success of this partnership. It seriously impacted the community in a very positive way, and we have every intention of collaborating further with these other agencies."

Some of the more significant arrests are:

  • On October 7, Swampscott business owner was arrested for allegedly selling OxyContin and marijuana from his convenience store at 205 Burrill Street.
  • On October 9, in North Andover, police seized a handgun and 54 kilos of cocaine and arrested seven suspects. The defendants were taken into Federal custody, and will be prosecuted in U.S. District Court.
  • On October 21, an investigation that spanned Haverhill and Southern, NH, resulted in the arrests of six defendants on cocaine and weapons charges.
  • On October 22, member of the Essex County Drug Task Force, along with Gloucester and Peabody police detectives arrested Juan Lara, 34, on heroin distribution charges. Lara is a convicted felon who was deported, but had re-entered the country illegally.
  • Also on October 21 in Lynn, police arrested Handy Iraola, on a probation violation and found him to be in possession of a loaded .45 caliber handgun. In addition to the weapons charge, he was charged with receiving stolen property and possession of marijuana.
  • In Lynn on October 26, Rod Perez, 37, was arrested and charged with trafficking in heroin and a school zone violation.

Methuen Police Chief Kathy Lavigne said, "Utilizing these agencies to combat the drug problem within the city is the equivalent of increasing our manpower, which during the budget cuts we are experiencing would be impossible otherwise."