FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Ten people have been charged for their roles in a fentanyl-trafficking organization in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, the office of U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins announced.

Just under 15 kilograms of the powerful painkiller were seized during the bust last month, along with “substantial” amounts of cash, according to prosecutors.

According to the charging documents, the investigation began back in March 2021. Prosecutors say officials intercepted phone conversations from numerous people believed to have been involved and the suspected leader of the organization, Estarlin Ortiz-Alcantara.

During those conversations, investigators learned fentanyl was being distributed out of a “stash house” in Fall River.

The investigation also identified other customers who re-distributed fentanyl to their own local customer bases in areas including Cape Cod, Taunton and New Bedford.

Investigators say as part of the conspiracy, under Ortiz-Alcantara’s management and control, it is alleged that drug transactions were made in public areas, including in the diaper aisle of a store and in supermarket parking lots.

On at least one occasion, investigators say they even spotted drugs hidden in cereal boxes while a child was present.

Over 500 grams of suspected fentanyl was seized during the investigation through controlled purchases and drug seizures, according to investigators.

The following defendants were charged with conspiracy to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl:

  • Estarlin Ortiz-Alcantara, 36, of Providence
  • Mario Rafael Dominguez-Ortiz, 24, of Cranston
  • Yeury Francisco Garcia-Rodriguez, a/k/a “Benjamin Osorio Pizarro,” 32, of Providence
  • Rebecca Bartholomew, 36, of Yarmouth
  • Jose Santiago, 45, of New Bedford
  • Edwin Collazo, 26, of New Bedford
  • Jason Cruz, 41, of New Bedford
  • Michael Pacheco, 43, of Taunton
  • Rafael Cesar Cabreja Jimenez, 27, of Providence
  • Alfredo Valdez, 44, of Providence.

Ortiz-Alcantara, Cabreja Jimenez, and Valdez were also charged with possession with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl.

Collazo and Pacheco have also been charged with possession with intent to distribute fentanyl.

“Today’s indictment is another step towards dismantling what we believe to be a substantial drug trafficking organization that pumped deadly fentanyl into neighborhoods throughout Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island – including the Providence, New Bedford, Taunton and Cape Cod areas,” Rollins said.