HOULTON, Maine — Three Rhode Island men were arrested Wednesday afternoon for allegedly trafficking the drug fentanyl into the state following a four-month investigation by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.
Pedro Rosario, 60, of Cranston, Rhode Island, and Luis Ortiz, 36, and Kelvin Mosquea, 38, both of Providence, Rhode Island, were arrested by MDEA agents on Interstate 95 near Crystal, MDEA Cmdr. Darrell Crandall said.
All three were charged with aggravated trafficking in scheduled drugs, which is a Class A felony. The trio was taken to Aroostook County Jail in Houlton, where a bail commissioner denied them bail until they could make an initial appearance before a judge. That court appearance is scheduled for Friday.
The three men were riding in two separate vehicles southbound on I-95 when they were pulled over by MDEA agents, with the assistance of local, County and state police officers. About 2.7 pounds of fentanyl was confiscated. The conservative, retail street value of the drugs was estimated at nearly $250,000, Crandall said.
Rosario, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, may also may face charges for re-entering the United States after being deported. The U.S. Border Patrol and Homeland Security Investigations are working together on that aspect of the follow-up investigation, Crandall said.
“Fentanyl, which is lethal in exceptionally small quantities, continues to drive opioid overdose incidents in Maine and throughout the country,” Crandall said. “The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has estimated the lethal dose of fentanyl, for most people, at just two milligrams.”
MDEA agents began their criminal investigation in September when Rosario started indirectly communicating with MDEA agents, who were acting in an undercover capacity, Crandall said.
“The investigation progressed to Rosario making arrangements to deliver a large quantity of drugs to Aroostook County on Dec. 18 for illegal distribution there,” he said.
Rosario is no stranger to Maine. In 2008, he was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 76 months in prison for possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
Through surveillance, MDEA agents were able to identify two suspect vehicles traveling through Maine, heading to the Houlton area. One of the suspects encountered a non-law enforcement public safety vehicle at a Houlton business that the group mistakenly thought was a police vehicle. The men then attempted to flee the area by heading south on Interstate 95, Crandall said.
Both vehicles were stopped traveling south on Interstate 95 in Crystal and with the assistance of a drug detection dog team from Maine State Police, MDEA agents recovered more than 2.5 pounds of suspected fentanyl, allegedly concealed within one of the vehicles.
Information on drug crimes may be reported to MDEA by calling the Tip Line at 800-452-6457 or anonymously by using MDEA’s Tip411 application for iPhone and Android. Text “MDEA,” followed by the information to 847411.