Police arrest 12 suspects in regional cocaine trafficking operation

  • This photo from the Northwestern district attorney’s office shows evidence seized during a multi-agency investigation into an alleged regional cocaine trafficking ring. Contributed Photo/NORTHWESTERN DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE

Published: 12/19/2021 7:48:49 PM
Modified: 12/19/2021 7:48:35 PM

GREENFIELD — After a seven-month investigation involving more than a dozen law enforcement organizations, police last week broke up an alleged cocaine trafficking syndicate that investigators believe distributed between 100 and 200 grams of cocaine a day throughout Franklin and Hampshire counties and the North Quabbin.

A dozen people from Greenfield, Hatfield, Deerfield, Montague, Ludlow, Charlemont and West Springfield were arrested in connection with the enterprise, according to the Northwestern district attorney’s office.

The investigation culminated Tuesday, when members of the Northwestern District Anti-Crime Task Force coordinated the simultaneous execution of several search warrants, seizing the alleged criminal organization’s stash of cocaine and other evidence.

Arrested were two brothers, Brandon Rice, 35, of Hatfield, and Daniel Rice, 38, of West Springfield, who are the alleged leaders of the trafficking organization. Daniel Rice owns Dapper Dan’s Barbershop on Chapman Street in Greenfield, a location that was believed to be part of the alleged criminal operation, the DA’s office said.

Each man pleaded not guilty in Greenfield District Court to charges of trafficking cocaine over 200 grams and conspiracy to violate drug laws. Both were ordered held on $500,000 cash bail and their cases were continued until Jan. 14, 2022.

The investigation worked to uncover the organized syndicate’s alleged members, methods of daily distribution, quantities of cocaine and locations of operation, the DA’s office stated.

Since Tuesday, police executed more search warrants and made additional arrests in connection with the operation.

At 25 Keegan Lane in Greenfield, the residence of David Caplice, police allegedly recovered more than a kilogram of cocaine. At 22 Arch St. in Ludlow, the residence of Jason Nadeau, police say, they recovered about 4 kilograms of suspected cocaine.

Police allege that these 5 kilograms of suspected cocaine represent both the source of supply for Brandon and Daniel Rice’s cocaine trafficking organization and their local stash of cocaine intended for distribution throughout Franklin and Hampshire counties.

As a result of the evidence gathered, the following individuals were arrested and arraigned on charges in Greenfield District Court last week:

■Jason Nadeau, 40, of Ludlow and David Caplice, 38, of Greenfield, each pleaded not guilty to charges of trafficking cocaine over 200 grams and conspiracy to violate drug laws. Both men were ordered held on $300,000 cash bail.

■Nathan Ortiz, 38, of Greenfield pleaded not guilty to charges of trafficking cocaine over 200 grams and conspiracy to violate drug laws, and was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail.

■Jason Byrd, 42, of Greenfield, pleaded not guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to violate drug laws and is being held on $10,000 cash bail.

■Wayne Rockwood, 43, of Greenfield, pleaded not guilty to charges of trafficking cocaine over 18 grams and conspiracy to violate drug laws. He was ordered held on $3,500 cash bail.

■Heather Symanski, 31, of Greenfield, pleaded not guilty to charges of trafficking cocaine over 18 grams and conspiracy to violate drug laws. She was ordered held on $3,000 cash bail.

■Robert Blake, 46, of Greenfield, pleaded not guilty to a single count of conspiracy to violate drug laws, and was ordered held on $3,000 cash bail.

■Rebekah Thompson, 37, of Charlemont, pleaded not guilty to charges of trafficking cocaine over 18 grams and conspiracy to violate drug laws, and was released on personal recognizance.

■David Gallegos, 28, and Jaimilee Bontempi, 29, both of Deerfield, and Damek Ryan, 37, of Montague, each pleaded not guilty to single counts of conspiracy to violate drug laws. Each was released on personal recognizance.

“I am extremely proud of the work of the task force on this case. To the people of our community that have complained about this activity, we hear you,” said Jeremy Bucci, chief trial counsel for District Attorney David Sullivan, in a statement. “The message should be clear that we have the capability, the experience and the determination to target the highest levels of criminal organizations within our community.”

Bucci and Assistant District Attorney Joseph Webber are assigned to prosecute the criminal cases stemming from this operation.

Trooper Daniel Paras of the Massachusetts State Police and Detective Jay Butynski of the Greenfield Police Department, both of whom are members of the Northwestern District Anti-Crime Task Force, led the investigation that began in May.

The task force sought and was granted dozens of judicial authorizations for warrants involving tracking surveillance ranging from the use of secret cameras, live cellphone location data, GPS tracking devices, and ultimately wiretap warrants to intercept communications between various members of the organization, according to the DA’s office.

“Members of the task force worked tirelessly to follow, observe and record important meetings and travel of the members of this alleged criminal syndicate,” Bucci said.

The investigation was led by the Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit assigned to the Northwestern district attorney’s office and drew participation from the Franklin and Hampshire county sheriff’s offices, and the Greenfield, Montague, Deerfield, Hadley, Athol, Orange, Belchertown and Easthampton police departments.

In addition, police personnel from these agencies assisted: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Berkshire County State Police Detective Unit & Drug Task Force; Chicopee Police Department; Commonwealth Interstate Narcotics Reduction Enforcement Team; East Longmeadow Police Department; Hampden County Sheriff’s Department; Hampden County State Police Detective Unit & Narcotics Task Force; Hampden County Strategic Action & Focused Enforcement Unit; Holyoke Police Department; Homeland Security Investigations; Ludlow Police Department; Massachusetts National Guard; Massachusetts State Police Community Action Team and Shelburne Falls barracks; Springfield Police Department; Westfield Police Department; and West Springfield Police Department.


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