3 police officers charged in cocaine-dealing operation
PROVIDENCE -- The Rhode Island State Police said Thursday that three Providence police officers were among six arrested on drug-related charges.
The state police said the six defendants were snared in "Operation Deception."
The officers were identified as Detective Joseph Colanduono, Sgt. Steven Gonsalves and Patrolman Robert Hamlin.
Detective Joseph Colanduono, 44, faces multiple counts of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance (cocaine) and one count of conspiring and concealing a felony.
Sgt. Steven Gonsalves, 47, was charged with four counts of soliciting another to commit a crime. Gonsalves is a former driver for Providence Mayor David Cicilline and thehusband of the mayor's executive assistant, Xiomara Gonsalves. Cicilline described his assistant as "incredibly heartbroken."
Police said Patrolman Robert Hamlin, 33, a school resource officer at a Providence high school, helped his brother avoid getting caught by giving names of narcotics detectives and providing descriptions of their police cars, said State Police Capt. David Neill. Hamlin faces two charges of conspiracy to posess cocaine.
Detective Joseph Colanduono is a decorated Narcotics officer. A review will now begin on all of his cases and because he also worked with the Drug Enforcement Agency, a federal review could follow. He is charged with conspiracy to deal cocaine and compounding and concealing a felony.
State Police Col. Brendan Doherty told The Associated Press that at least some calls were made when the officers were on duty, though police said there's no evidence that any drug dealing took place at a school.
Doherty said the alleged drug dealing was "the act of a few rogue officers - rogue officers who compromised the trust of the citizens of city of Providence and the state of Rhode Island."
Cicilline called the arrests "gravely disappointing" and said the officers deserve to be prosecuted aggressively. "Good law enforcement relies on the public's trust and confidence in the police department and any time a police officer engages in this kind of behavior, that trust and confidence is undermined," he said.
The civilians arrested include, Albert Hamlin, 28, Patrolman Hamlin's brother and alleged ring leader.
Jameson Hassett, 24 and Khalid Mason, 34, were also arrested. In 2007, Mason, faced drug dealing charges that were dismissed by a federal judge after a Providence police sergeant testified at a pretrial hearing that he didn't have any notes or reports from his investigation. That case is not connected to the current arrests, police said.
Mason supplied drugs to Albert Hamlin, who would purchase one kilogram of cocaine at a time for about $35,000 and break down the drugs into smaller quantities, which he would then sell, police said.
Providence Police Chief Dean Esserman, who called it a "hard day" for his department, said the officers have been suspended without pay. The officers either used the cocaine or helped arrange the drug deals, police said.
"These actions that we saw are an offensive display of a violation of trust that we cannot and will not tolerate," Attorney General Patrick Lynch said.
The arrests followed a more than four-month investigation that began with information from a state police detective and involved wiretaps and intercepted phone calls. Police seized several hundred grams of cocaine and firearms as part of the probe.
Gonsalves was released on personal recognizance by a bail commissioner Thursday evening and is due in court March 18. The other five defendants, including the two officers, are being held without bail at the ACI overnight and will be arraigned Friday in Providence District Court.
The Associated Press contributed to this report