Nearly 50 people in connection to what authorities believe is the single largest “takedown” in Rhode Island State Police history have been arrested in connection to a year-long drug investigation involving motorcycle gangs.
A total of 49 people were apprehended during multiple raids on Wednesday, with some of the suspects having more than 200 charges pending.
Police said the bust, dubbed “Operation Patched Out,” made a big dent in the illegal activities of violent motorcycle gangs in the state.
“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,” Col. Ann 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.”
The NBC 10 I-Team reported that agents executed multiple search warrants in the northwestern corner of the state. Areas included Woonsocket, North Smithfield, North Providence, Burrillville, Chepachet, and Warwick, as well as several communities in Massachusetts, such as Bellingham, Blackstone, Charlton and Milford, said police.
Neighbors told NBC 10 News what they witnessed during a raid in Woonsocket.
“Twenty dudes jumped out of the car with assault rifles,” Kyle Seibert said. “They went up to the third floor and brought someone down. Two minutes later, I heard a battering ram go through the glass door behind me.”
The investigation started in May 2017. Detectives said they immediately focused their attention on members of two gangs, including the Pagans and Kryptmen.
Lt. Col. Joseph Philbin, who spearheaded the investigation, said state police received information about local chapters of the outlaw motorcycle gangs.
“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,” Philbin said, adding that “detectives intercepted and arrested one of the accused gang members who was allegedly en route to commit murder” during the investigation.
Authorities said the suspect was caught during a traffic stop near the alleged victim’s house, with detectives seizing a loaded pistol. The suspect was arrested and is being held at the ACI in Cranston.
Meanwhile, Assumpico said they also seized drugs, 53 guns, stolen ATVs, lawn tractors, snow blowers and other equipment as part of the investigation. Some suspects are also accused of fraudulent mortgage and bank activities.
“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,” Assumpico said.
More than 150 officers from state, federal and local agencies were included in the raids. Explosives were also used to break down doors as they stormed homes.
In addition to the arrests, Assumpico said more than a dozen additional suspects are being sought on warrants charging them with dozens of crimes, including gun and drug trafficking.
(NBC 10’s Crystal Bui contributed to this report.)