Two men were arrested on felony drug charges on Tuesday as they were stepping off the ferry in Vineyard Haven, the latest in a series of major drug busts over the past year involving suspects either caught selling drugs here or trying to bring large amounts of heroin to the Vineyard.
The Martha’s Vineyard Drug Task Force, working in conjunction with the Tisbury and Massachusetts State Police, arrested Jose Luis Arias, 29, of Jamaica Plain, and Wilken Ariaz-Baez, 24, at about 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday soon after they arrived on the boat and climbed into a taxicab.
Both men were charged with trafficking a class A substance (heroin), trafficking a class B substance (cocaine), and conspiracy to violate drug laws.
Mr. Ariaz-Baez initially provided police with a false identification; police learned his true identity after running his fingerprints through the FBI database. He also was charged with providing a false or stolen identification to police, intimidating a witness and uttering a false document.
Police also learned that Mr. Ariaz-Baez had entered the country illegally and alerted Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which has issued a detention order for him.
Police seized 105 grams of heroin and 79 grams of cocaine, with an estimated street value of about $28,000, as well as approximately $1,760 in cash.
Mr. Arias and Mr. Ariaz-Baez, both originally from the Dominican Republic, were initially held on $20,000 bail. Both were arraigned in Edgartown district court yesterday, where pleas of not guilty were automatically entered on their behalf.
Mr. Arias has since posted bail and was released. Both men are due back in court on Dec. 21.
The arrests on Tuesday marked the third major drug bust in just under a year. Last November members of the drug task force executed a search warrant at the Garde family home on West Spring street in Vineyard Haven and arrested six people on drug charges, three of them members of the Garde family.
The task force seized 127 grams of heroin, two scales, several accounting sheets and approximately $45,000 in cash. Last month the lead defendant in that case, Kaleb Garde, 25, was sentenced to five years in jail.
Then in August police in Providence, R.I., arrested a West Tisbury man, Robin Carberry, 24, and charged him with possession of heroin with intent to distribute. Island police said at the time that Mr. Carberry was a known acquaintance of the suspects arrested last November, and was at the Garde family home at the time of the raid.
State police Sgt. Jeff Stone, also head of the Martha’s Vineyard Drug Task Force, told the Gazette this week that the bust on Tuesday was the culmination of a year-long investigation that started after the drug bust at the Garde family home last November.
Sergeant Stone said information gathered during that drug raid helped in the investigation that led to the arrest of Mr. Carberry in August, as well as the arrest of the two men in Vineyard Haven this week. Because the investigation remains ongoing, he could not elaborate further.
“I can say the first [drug bust] played a role in the arrest in Providence, which led to the arrests here [this week],” he said. “There is evidence they were related, but I cannot go into detail,” he said.
He did say the task force over the past year had conducted a thorough investigation that involved working with other police agencies that led to Tuesday’s arrests.
“We were waiting for the right time and place to get these guys, and this was the right time. We knew these two guys have been coming to the Island delivering heroin; we knew they would be arriving on this boat, and we knew they would be carrying [heroin],” Sergeant Stone said.
State Police Sgt. Neal Maciel said he anticipated more arrests, but could not be more specific.
“We have to be careful about giving out information,” he said.