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NBC 10 I-Team: Valdez brothers indicted; feds make another arrest

A number of people were indicted on charges stemming from Operation Triple Play, an FBI investigation into drug trafficking. (WJAR)

Hands in cuffs and shackles around their ankles, one by one, three brothers were brought into U.S. District Court in Providence and arraigned after an FBI-led investigation involving 130 law enforcement officials arrested the brothers and 13 others in Operation Triple Play.

Dressed in beige, prison-issued clothes, the three brothers – Juan Valdez, 50 of Milton, Mass., Claudio Valdez, 44 of Woonsocket and Hector Valdez, 47, also of Woonsocket, faced U.S. District Court Judge Lincoln D. Almond to enter their plea after a federal grand jury returned a multi-count indictment against the trio and six others involved in the Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO).

Three brothers, who federal agents say led the Valdez DTO in New England, were arraigned on Thursday for their role in the distribution of crack cocaine, powder cocaine and heroin over an eight-month period. The FBI agent responsible for drafting a 184-page affidavit detailing the eight-month long investigation testified at a recent hearing against the three brothers, Dominican citizens who were all deported and reentered the United States illegally, according to the affidavit.

Juan Valdez, who has seven different aliases and is known by the names “Canita,” Cabezon,” and “Tony,” was indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, cocaine base and a kilo or more of heroin and one count of illegal reentry into the United States after having been previously deported.

Claudio Valdez, who uses three different aliases and goes by the names “Radhames,” was indicted on the same charges of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

The third Valdez brother to be arraigned was Hector. The tallest of the three and sporting a short Mohawk, Hector Valdez was indicted on the same two charges – conspiring to distribute drugs and illegal reentry into the United States.

All three brothers plead not guilty in the case being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. District Attorney Gerard Sullivan.

On count one – the drug conspiracy charge – each of the three brothers face a maximum total imprisonment of 10 years to life, a fine of $10 million, a life term of supervised release and a mandatory fee of $100.

For count two – illegal reentry into the United States – the Valdez trio face a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, three years supervised release and a mandatory fee of $100.

The judge ordered the trio to remain detained.

Agents made another arrest in Operaton Triple Play, according to the indictment filed in federal court. On May 5, officials arrested Esther Franco of Providence, who has two additional aliases and is known by the names "Estella" and "Negra." She was indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, cocaine base and a kilo or more of heroin. She faces 10 years to life imprisonment, a $10 million fine, life term of supervised release and a mandatory fee of $100. Franco was arraigned on May 5 and released on a number of conditions. Her travel is restricted to Rhode Island and she has a curfew of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Others named in the idictment include: Tanya Crouteau, Vladimir Arias, Alexandra Garcia and Manuel Castillo.

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