BOSTON – Trinitarios street gang members are “hard wired for violence” and linked to a variety of illicit crimes throughout the Greater Lawrence area, the highest-ranking Boston FBI agent said Friday.
And juveniles associated with the Trinitarios, known as “Baby Trinis,” are selling firearms and being recruited at Methuen and Lawrence high schools, said Special Agent in Charge Joseph Bonavolonta of the FBI Boston Division.
“Some of our young people are being lured in to participate in all aspects of this gang,” Bonavolonta said.
Trinitarios gang members made up more than half of the 32 charged in “Operation Emerald Crush,” a local, state and federal investigation targeting guns, drugs, weapons and illegal gang activities, authorities announced Friday morning.
Some 79 firearms were seized in the operation, including handguns and assault weapons, officials said.
“As you can see, they’re hardwired for violence,” Bonavolonta said of the Trinitarios. “We believe they’re involved in everything from drug trafficking, armed robbery, home invasions, kidnappings to shootings.”
Those charged in Operation Emerald Crush are residents of Methuen, Lawrence, Haverhill, Lynn, and Salem, Mass.
The majority are adults; two are listed as juveniles.
The probe that has been underway for at least a year culminated early Friday morning with the arrests, said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, flanked by Lawrence police Chief Roy Vasque, Bonavolonta and other law enforcement officials.
Vasque praised all those who worked on the investigation, noting their efforts are “outstanding and much needed.” Those who investigated included Lawrence detectives in the department’s gang and drug units.
“It’s things like this and what we are doing daily ourselves that can have a real impact on the community. I think it’s a home run,” Vasque said.
Lelling said the Trinitarios are “a violent Dominican street gang that originated in the Rikers Island prison facility in New York City in 1990.”
“There are dozens of Trinitarios members in Lawrence and surrounding communities, involved in a broad range of crimes including gun trafficking, drug dealing and violence,” he said.
Officials said those arrested have sold a large number of firearms and a variety of controlled substances including fentanyl, heroin and cocaine. Lelling also said many of those charged have extensive, violent criminal histories including one defendant with 54 entries on his adult record for drug dealing, firearm offenses, assault and battery and assault and battery on a police officer.
Bonavolonta, in his remarks, noted that during the operation, investigators bought “a lot of guns ... 79 firearms from 17 subjects on 44 different occasions to be exact.”
Seized were M-4s, AK-47s, TEC-9s, along with pistols, revolvers and two bullet-proof vests. Seventeen of the weapons were reported stolen and at least two were used in shootings, he said.
“One of the subjects sold us 27 guns. Another sold us 16,” said Bonavolonta. “Aside from the seemingly endless supply, what’s equally troubling to us is the fact we bought four of these firearms from minors.”
Bonavolonta hoped a clear message was sent through the operation: “If you are hustling guns and drugs in our cities, you will wake up one morning with law enforcement at your door.”
In his remarks, Lelling also highlighted a major nationwide initiative announced this past week by Attorney General William Barr “to combat gun violence and do more to keep guns out of the hands of felons, gang members, the mentally ill and others who might endanger our communities.”
“Cases like this one are a reminder of why,” said Lelling, pointing to the seized firearms on display Friday morning.
“More broadly, the guns on the tables show you why gun violence is not a local but a national problem, and now a top priority for the Department of Justice,” he said.
Those charged with drug trafficking and distribution, depending on the quantity, face anywhere from 20 years to life in prison and fines of up to $10 million, according to information released by Lelling’s office.
Those convicted of federal firearms charges face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The following individuals were charged in U.S. District Court:
Arismendy Gil-Padilla, also known as “Flow,” 29, of Methuen; Being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, and distribution of and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and 40 grams or more of fentanyl.
Jonathan Arias, 29, of Indianapolis, Indiana; Being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.
Emilio Rodriguez, 32, of Lynn; Distribution of and possession with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base.
Enrique Rosario, 32, of Lawrence; Being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.
John Harry Morales, also known as “Harry”, 33, of Lawrence; Being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.
Jose Aponte, also known as “Kiko”, 33, of Lawrence; Distribution of and possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin, and being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.
Jose Omar Hernandez-Aragones, also known as “Omar,” 22, of Lawrence; Being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition and distribution of and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base.
Kevin Gomez, also known as “Monkey,” 31, of Haverhill; Distribution of and possession with intent to distribute heroin, and being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.
Keysi Batista, 30, of Methuen; Distribution of and possession with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl.
Luis Ruiz Gonzalez, 27, of Lawrence; Being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, distribution of and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl.
- Yisthen Ynoa, also known as “Cantifla,” 34, of Lawrence; Distribution of and possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
The following 21 individuals were charged by the Essex County district attorney’s office with various state firearm and drug offenses:
Pedro Arias, 63, of Lawrence
Jonathan Delgado, 35, of Lawrence
Victor Diaz, 22, of Lawrence
Luis Diaz-Brito, a/k/a “Blackie,” 22, of Lawrence
Yolvie Diaz-Martinez, 22, of Salem, Mass.
Ulises Espinal, a/k/a “Ezequiel,” 34, of Methuen
Robinson Gaston-Santana, 29, of Lawrence
Francis Gotay, 29, of Haverhill
Jose Nunez, a/k/a “Oreja,” 24, of Methuen
Anthony Nunez-Romano, 20, of Methuen
Alexis Paredes, also known as “Cabeza,” 31, of Lawrence.
Kevin Perez-Lorenzo, 20, of Salem, Mass.
Guaril Poche-Brito, also known as “Chamakito,” 21, of Haverhill
Kenneth Rodriguez, 31, of Lawrence
Temistocles Santana, also known as “Omar,” 28, of Lawrence
Jael Guillen-Perez, 20, of Haverhill
Alan Acosta, 23, of Lawrence
Abigail Arias, 20, of Lawrence
Eliezer Taveras, also known as “Bad Bunny,” 18, of Lawrence
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.