Colonel Ann C. Assumpico, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Director of the Department of Public Safety, announces the arrests of 49 people and the seizure of 53 illegal guns and a large quantity of marijuana, crack, cocaine and heroin as a result of a year-long investigation into motorcycle gangs operating in northwestern Rhode Island.
The arrests were made during a coordinated series of pre-dawn raids conducted by the Rhode Island State Police, with assistance from more than 150 state, federal and local law enforcement officers.
Colonel Assumpico said the raids involved the use of explosive devices to breach heavily fortified buildings; an armored truck and battering ram to break down doors; and dozens of heavily armed SWAT team members and other officers. Fortunately, she said, it was conducted without incident.
In addition to those arrested this morning, more than a dozen additional suspects are being sought on arrest warrants charging them with dozens of crimes, including gun and drug trafficking.
Colonel Assumpico said today’s operation is believed to be the single largest takedown in Rhode Island State Police history.
The arrests result from a 12-month investigation dubbed Operation Patched Out, which was conducted by members of the Rhode Island State Police Special Investigations Unit with assistance from the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General, along with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The investigation began last May, after detectives in the Special Investigations Unit received information that some of the most violent motorcycle gangs in the country were establishing local chapters in northwestern Rhode Island. They quickly zeroed in on members of two gangs: The Pagans and Kryptmen, who were allegedly involved in gun and drug trafficking and other criminal activity.
Using electronic surveillance and court-ordered wiretaps, members of the State Police Special Investigations Unit intercepted thousands of phone conversations and text messages, while collecting other evidence detailed in a 1,300-page affidavit used to secure the warrants executed earlier today.
“These gang members are not recreational bikers organizing local charities. These are violent criminals who belong to some of the most sinister motorcycle gangs in this country,” Colonel Assumpico said.
“When I learned they were trying to establish a foothold here in Rhode Island, I ordered my detectives to use whatever means necessary to investigate and eradicate these gangs.”
“Today’s arrests send a clear and convincing message: we will not allow motorcycle gangs and other criminals to sell guns and drugs on our streets and commit violent crimes in our communities,” Colonel Assumpico said.
Colonel Assumpico extended special thanks to following agencies for their assistance with the investigation and today’s operation: the Rhode Island Office of Attorney General, along with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF); Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); the Massachusetts State Police; and the Woonsocket, North Smithfield and Burrillville Police Departments.
Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, who was among those at today’s news conference, said, “I commend the excellent work by the network of law enforcement agencies involved in this investigation, especially the prosecutors from my office and the Rhode Island State Police. As with all good investigations, it took patience and tenacity to unravel what is a vast and complex network of drug and gun traffickers in Rhode Island and bordering Massachusetts and Connecticut.”
Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Philbin, who spearheaded the investigation, said Rhode Island State Police had received information more than a year ago about local chapters of outlaw motorcycle gangs operating in northwestern Rhode Island, particularly Woonsocket, North Smithfield and Burrillville.
These local chapters are affiliated with some of the country’s most notorious biker gangs – most of which have a history of violent criminal activity including murder, kidnapping, robbery, extortion and large-scale drug trafficking, Lt. Colonel Philbin said.
“These gangs have been involved in numerous acts of violence, including shooting incidents that put innocent civilians at risk,” Lt. Colonel Philbin said. “There is absolutely no question that they represent a clear and present danger to the people of Rhode Island.”
Members of the State Police Special Investigations Unit began tracking their activities and learned that several rival gangs were competing for turf here in Rhode Island, resulting in increasingly violent confrontations – including three shootings that were never reported to law enforcement.
At one point, based on intelligence gathered during the investigation, detectives intercepted and arrested one of the alleged gang members who was allegedly en route to commit murder, Lt. Colonel Philbin said. The suspect was arrested during a motor vehicle stop near the alleged victim’s house, and detectives seized a loaded 9mm Ruger pistol. That suspect was immediately arrested and remains held at the Adult Correctional Institutions, pending trial.
The investigation also revealed extensive evidence of other criminal activity, including large scale gun and drug trafficking; widespread theft and sale of stolen ATVs, lawn tractors, snow blowers and other equipment; fraudulent mortgage and bank activity; and a host of other criminal acts, Lt. Colonel Philbin said.
With escalating tension and an increased risk of violence in recent weeks, the decision was made to execute the search and arrest warrants earlier today, Lt. Colonel Philbin said.
More than 150 law enforcement officers, including members of the Rhode Island State Police, along with federal, state and local police agencies, fanned out shortly before 4 a.m. for a series of coordinated, simultaneous raids on each of locations.
Search warrants were executed at the following locations:
210 Central Street, Burrillville KMC Garage, 481 Second Avenue, Woonsocket Pagans MC CH, 91 Mason Street, Woonsocket 1 Lake Drive, Burrillville 131 Mason Street, Woonsocket (AMCO) 31 Sorrell Road, North Providence 156 Village Road Apt. 10, Woonsocket 527 Fairmount Street #2, Woonsocket 201 Arnold Street, Woonsocket 111 Pulaski Boulevard, Bellingham, MA 7 Old Mendon Road, Blackstone, MA 30 Old Worcester Road, Charlton, MA 484 Prospect Street, Woonsocket 56 Heroux Avenue, Woonsocket 119 East Harkness Road, N. Smithfield 362 2nd Avenue, Woonsocket 541 Pond Street, Woonsocket 56 Marshall Road, Woonsocket 308/310/314 Willow Street, Woonsocket 88 Fifth Avenue, Woonsocket 46 Reservoir Road, Burrillville 213 High Street, Woonsocket 192 Beacon Avenue, Woonsocket 196 West Street, Milford, MA 259 Sixth Avenue, Woonsocket 710 Providence Street, Woonsocket 50 Everson Drive, Chepachet, RI 556 Harris Avenue, Woonsocket Parmalee, Poirier & Assoc. 469 Centerville Rd. #203, Warwick