PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As undercover investigators were zeroing in on a local drug ring, one accused heroin dealer told the alleged kingpin he could not answer his phone because he was meeting with his probation officer.
Now, Wandy Diaz has struck a plea agreement with the government — the second defendant to fall in a major drug bust dubbed Operation Triple Play, in reference to the three brothers who allegedly ran the ring.
Diaz, 37, who was a Providence resident at the time of his arrest, agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin.
As part of the deal, Diaz will forfeit approximately $18,000 that was seized last April.
The government agreed to recommend the statute minimum of five years in prison, but the final decision will be up to the judge in the case.
The investigation began in September 2016 with undercover surveillance from Woonsocket to Providence and expanding into Massachusetts and Connecticut as well.
Three brothers – Juan, Hector and Claudio Valdez – were cuffed for allegedly running the operation, and according to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island, the trio and six of the other 16 suspects were in the country illegally.
Investigators called the operation a sophisticated, multi-state ring, which brought drugs to New England from Mexico.
There were stash houses in Cranston and Woonsocket with low-level dealers such as Diaz selling in the greater Providence, Boston and Hartford areas.
Court documents state investigators heard Diaz talking with ring leader Juan Valdez on the phone several times about potential heroin deals.
In one of those instances, investigators said he told Valdez “he could not answer the phone because he was meeting with his probation officer,” according to a court filing.
Diaz joins Jafar Munir, 61 of Smithfield, who signed a plea agreement in December for one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine for his alleged role in the syndicate.
The plea agreements do not indicate whether or not Diaz or Munir will testify against the other suspects.
Neither the government nor the defense attorneys have returned requests for comment.
The bust netted $95,000 in cash and a total of about 17 pounds of drugs – 4 kilograms of heroin, 1.5 kilograms of fentanyl, 2 kilograms of cocaine and 155 grams of crack.
The street value was about $700,000 but investigators said it was only a small amount of what the operation allegedly dealt before the probe began.