31 arrested, drugs and cash seized, as police take down drug ring

After a months-long wiretapping investigation that began with a complaint about prostitution, police said today they had arrested 31 members of a dangerous, highly organized drug trafficking network and seized large amounts of drugs and cash.

The multi-agency sting, dubbed “Operation Limehouse” after a district in London, culminated in a series of early morning raids today in Boston, Quincy, and other nearby communities.

In the 18 houses and eight vehicles they searched, police said they found drugs, money, and weapons hidden behind walls and in secret compartments. In total, officers seized one kilo of heroin, a half-kilo of cocaine, unspecified amounts of marijuana and prescription painkillers, and more than $100,000 in cash. Police also confiscated four handguns, a Winchester rifle, and more than 150 rounds of ammunition.

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“Drugs obviously drive the violence in our city, and it’s very key that we focus on the drugs, because behind the drugs are the guns,” said Boston Police Superintendent in Chief Daniel Linskey. “This was quite an operation.”

The operation involved listening in on hundreds of phone calls between gang members, a tactic that Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley stressed was approved and supervised by a judge.

“It’s not just some kind of a willy-nilly listening into private citizens’ phone calls,” Conley said during a press conference at Boston police headquarters. “This was based on probable cause.”

Conley asked legislators to give police more leeway to use wiretapping to solve violent crimes, saying the current statute, which focuses on organized crime, is outdated.

The arrested defendants were being arraigned this afternoon, and prosecutors said they were seeking bail of up to $1 million for the group’s leaders, whom they described as older career criminals.

“The defendants charged in this case, by and large, aren’t young men fresh to the game,” Conley said. “They had a business plan, and that was to make as much money as possible by selling narcotics through carefully selected runners and distributors.”

Under Massachusetts law, anyone convicted of trafficking large quantities of heroin faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years in prison, prosecutors said.

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