HOLYOKE, Mass. (WGGB) – Over a dozen people, including several that prosecutors allege are part of the La Familia street gang, have been arrested following a pre-dawn raid in Holyoke.
The U.S. Attorney’s office says that eleven of the suspects, ten from Holyoke and one from Springfield, are all facing federal charges of distributing and possessing with intent to distribute heroin or cocaine.
Friday morning’s raid, which Holyoke Police Lt. Matthew Moriarty notes was conducted “citywide,” was a result of a long investigation involving local, state, and federal agencies, including Mass. State Police, FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
The FBI alleges that the apartment building at 556 South Bridge Street in Holyoke was La Familia’s headquarters, where Francisco Diaz lived as the gang leader.
That was until sun rise Friday, when the Western Mass. Gang Task Force swarmed the neighborhood armed with SWAT gear and arrest warrants.
“When you take off the head of the snake, I think you’ve made a pretty good dent in the operation,” Holyoke Police Chief James Neiswanger said.
Over the years, police say almost every apartment in the building at 556 South Bridge Street has been raided by police.
“For the amount of time we spend down there, personally, I wish it were a parking lot,” Chief Neiswanger said. “That’s the reality of it.”
Police say La Familia is a major player in the local heroin trade. Officers confiscated heroin, cocaine, automatic guns, and $38,000 cash Friday.
Federal prosecutors say that indictments allege that each of the men distributed heroin or cocaine in Holyoke between August 2012 and March 2013, and that Figueroa and Colon also had possession of a firearm and ammunition during that same time period.
“You are really seeing a significant shift in the City of Holyoke, and this is just part of it,” Neiswanger said. “Please realize, this is only one step. The pressure doesn’t stop here.”
FBI Special Agent Mark Karangekis echoed the sentiment, saying “If you are a gang member and you intend on selling drugs or trafficking firearms, the FBI’s Western Mass Gang Task Force, along with it’s partners in the Holyoke Police Department, will be knocking on your door one early morning,” he said.
Charged by the feds Monday morning were:
- Kelly Arzate, 29, of Holyoke
- Francisco Dias, 34, of Holyoke
- Antonio Caraballo, 35, of Holyoke
- Luzander Montoya, 29, of Holyoke
- Miguel Medina, 30, of Holyoke
- William Rodriguez, 28, of Holyoke
- Pedro Colon, 31, of Holyoke
- Reynaldo Figueroa, 27, of Holyoke
- Miguel Alcazar, 23, of Holyoke
- Edison Lajara, 25, of Holyoke
- Charlie Santiago, 32, of Springfield
Figueroa and Colon have also been indicted on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm. Eight of the men are also facing state drug charges.
In a detention affidavit, federal agents allege that Diaz, Caraballo, Rodriguez, Montaya, Medina, Alcazar, and Figueroa are members or associates of the La Familia street gang, which operates in Holyoke, Springfield and other cities.
Also arrested Friday during the raid include:
- 20-year-old Edward Torres – Charged with two counts of distribution of a Class A substance (Heroin)
- 45-year-old Yolanda Vargas – Charged with distribution of a Class A substance (Heroin) [Subsequent offense]
- 35-year-old Ariel Marmolejos – Charged with Resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and several motor vehicle charges
- 21-year-old Marvin Cruz – Charged with disorderly conduct
- 26-year-old Luis Santos – Charged with three counts of distribution of a Class A substance (Heroin)
- 38-year-old Tomas Diaz – Charged with Possession of ammunition and a gun without an FID card
- 20-year-old Irka Guzman – Charged with Possession of a large capacity weapon, possession of ammunition and a gun without an FID card