A drug bust in East Boston four years ago started an undercover probe that has led to the seizure of hundreds of millions of dollars in laundered drug profits, the seizure of large amounts of heroin and cocaine, and charges against alleged organized crime figures in Colombia and Italy, officials said this afternoon.
The multi-agency, multi-government investigation spanned four years and was built on the undercover work of an unidentified Massachusetts State Police trooper who traveled the world laundering money for the drug rings who shuttled money and drugs between the United States, South America, and Europe.
“This investigation not only been a lengthy one, but it’s been extremely complex,’’ US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said today of the US Drug Enforcement Administration-led investigation that was dubbed “Operation Fire and Ice.’’
She said some 20 people were arrested today in Massachusetts and in Colombia who will now be tried in a Boston courthouse for allegedly laundering drug money through the region. Officials estimated they seized some $200 million in cash, and more than 1,100 kilograms of cocaine, and 46 kilograms of heroin around the world.
Signaling the significance of the investigation to law enforcement in other countries, Ortiz was joined at an afternoon press conference at the Moakley Courthouse by Brigadier General Cesar Augusto Pinzon Arana, commander of an elite anti-drug unit in Colombia, and Detective Vittorio Rizzi, commander of a special investigation unit for the Italian National Police in Rome.
With the help of a Spanish interpreter, Arana said the investigation targeted the remnants of the notorious Medellin drug cartel which now operates under the name of “La Oficina de Envigado” in Colombia.
Those arrested in Colombia will face trial in the United States, officials said.
Three people with ties to Massachusetts were also arrested today. They were identified as Julissa Perez, of Malden; Henderson Martinez, who is also known as “Juan,” of Boston; and Roberto Torres-Colon, also known as “Chappa,” believed to be of Lawrence.
Authorities seized several bank accounts allegedly controlled by the Massachusetts residents and seized more than $2 million in cash. They face drug trafficking and money laundering charges here.
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