Updated (11:54 a.m. June 15) — This article has been updated to include the results of a dangerousness hearing for alleged drug trafficking ringleader Geraldo Rivera.

NEW BEDFORD — Authorities dismantled a large drug trafficking organization with multiple arrests in New Bedford and Providence on Friday after a yearslong, joint agency investigation dubbed "Operation Lunch Break."

According to the Bristol County District Attorney's Office, 11 people were arrested in New Bedford in connection to the Geraldo Rivera Drug Trafficking Organization during the June 11 sweep.

The organization is allegedly headed by 35-year-old New Bedford resident Geraldo Rivera, who was also caught and charged with four counts of conspiracy to violate drug laws.

Rivera has been found dangerous by a New Bedford District Court judge and ordered held without bail.

Investigators used a variety of methods including wiretapping to take down the organization, which the D.A.'s office said distributed large amounts of fentanyl, cocaine, marijuana, and opioids in the greater New Bedford area.

The D.A.'s office said that organization members were also observed by surveillance officers and captured on video during "significant events, relating to drug purchases."

Authorities said they learned during the investigation that many group members are experienced drug traffickers, who allegedly distributed around two kilograms of fentanyl and one kilogram of cocaine in the New Bedford area on a monthly basis.

Five New Bedford residences and two in Rhode Island were searched on June 11, with 14 arrest warrants issued.

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Investigators said they seized more than 100 grams of suspected fentanyl and more than 50 grams of suspected cocaine during the New Bedford searches, along with roughly $14,000 in cash.

Target residences in New Bedford included apartments on Acushnet Avenue, Walker Street, George Street, Durfee Street, and County Street.

At the same time, Rhode Island's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) task force said it found around 1.5 kilograms of cocaine and half a kilogram of high-grade fentanyl as well as $10,000 in cash during a search at alleged drug courier Hector Concepcion's home in Providence.

Authorities said the 34-year-old will go through the Rhode Island court system before being transported to Massachusetts to face other charges here.

Agencies involved in the investigation included the Bristol County D.A.'s office, Massachusetts State Police, and the state Attorney General Maura Healey's office, with assistance from the Bristol County Sheriff's Office, Dartmouth and Fall River police, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Rhode Island's HIDTA Task Force.

The D.A.'s office said the Bristol County Superior Court granted the authorization for the phone line wiretaps.

Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn III commended the various agencies involved in the drug bust, which he said resulted in more than a dozen arrests in total.

"Fentanyl has been the primary cause of the increase in fatal overdoses in Bristol County during the past seven years," he said. "Through a cooperative law enforcement effort, we will continue to work to interrupt and dismantle these drug trafficking organizations who profit off the addiction and misery of our fellow citizens."

“The opioid crisis is continuing to devastate communities across our state, and it’s only worsened during the pandemic,” said Attorney General Healey. “My office is committed to tackling this crisis from all angles, including disrupting dangerous drug trafficking networks like this one. We’re grateful for DA Quinn’s partnership in getting these deadly drugs off our streets.”

The defendants arrested in New Bedford during Friday's sweep are:

  • Geraldo Rivera, 35, four counts of conspiracy to violate the drug laws.
  • David Cruz, 26, four counts of conspiracy to violate the drug laws
  • Nyel Paris-Villanueva, 23, distribute class B drug; trafficking in excess of 36 grams of a Class A drug and six counts of conspiracy to violate the drug laws
  • Sergio Velasquez, trafficking in excess of 18 grams of cocaine and conspiracy to violate the drug laws.
  • Jessenia Camacho, 27, conspiracy to violate the drug laws.
  • Jose Quinones, 34, conspiracy to violate the drug laws,.
  • Jack Neves, 25, conspiracy to violate the drug laws
  • Edgar Hernandez-Casiano, 30, conspiracy to violate the drug laws
  • Courtney Reynolds, 22, conspiracy to violate there drug laws 
  • Xavier Thompson, 27, conspiracy to violate the drug laws
  • Flor Echevarria, 69, conspiracy to violate the drug laws

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