May 31, 2017 / 12:48 AM / 4 months ago

Massachusetts heroin trade crackdown leads to 30 arrests

A fallen caution sign sits across from a house, which according to law enforcement officials is one of the locations raided earlier in the day to break up heroin and fentanyl drug rings in the region, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, U.S., May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

BOSTON (Reuters) - A crackdown on Massachusetts’ heroin trade led to the arrests of 30 people on Tuesday on charges they were running a drug-trafficking ring that law enforcement officials said was one of the largest they had ever seen in the state.

Authorities said 27 people were arrested in early-morning raids around Lawrence and charged with running a ring that dealt heroin, cocaine and the deadly painkiller fentanyl in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. Three people already had been in custody.

About 200 federal, state and local law enforcement officials were involved in the sweep, which authorities dubbed Operation Bad Company, following an investigation that began in April 2016. The operation included phones taps in a house in Lawrence that served as the ring’s “stash house,” according to court papers unsealed on Tuesday.

Lawrence, a former mill town, is about 30 miles north of Boston near the New Hampshire border.

The alleged leaders of the ring, Juan Anibal Patrone, 26, and Josuel Moises Patrone-Gonzalez, 22, are dual citizens of the Dominican Republic and Italy, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Massachusetts. It was not immediately clear whether either of the two had hired an attorney.

A spike in U.S. overdose deaths linked to heroin, fentanyl and other opioid drugs has prompted a national crackdown on the trade by U.S. law enforcement. Heroin-related overdose deaths quadrupled from 2010 to 2015, when they hit 13,000, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Bill Trott

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