When East Providence Police Sgt. Diogo Mello learned about drug dealers in the city selling cocaine, crack and heroin, some transactions brazenly conducted near schools, he was angry.
"It kind of ticked us off, of course," Mello said. So, in April 2013, he took the information, gleaned from informants, to Chief Joseph Tavares and Major Chris Parella, and outlined a plan to take several of the dealers off the street. The plan, dubbed Operation Blindside, would be a little costly, Mello told them. Both men were extremely supportive, he said, even after learning about the cost.
Using asset forfeiture funds, East Providence detectives targeted 30 suspected drug dealers, and began making "controlled buys," recording at least two drug purchases from each dealer and securing the drugs as evidence for future arrests. About 70 percent of the 58 purchases were for either crack, cocaine or heroin, Mello said.
The operation lasted until the last days of October, ending in three phases of arrests, according to a detailed report of the operation on EastBayRI.com. Twenty-four people were arrested in the stings, and there are four outstanding arrest warrants left, Mello said.
Two notable arrests, Mello said, were Joey Spina, 36, of Providence, a professional boxer, and Eric Valdez, one of two men involved in the Central Avenue Playground shooting.
In the latter case, Mello said, "We were applying for the arrest warrant when that Central Park shooting came down."
As for the operation in general, "We did what we set out to do," Mello said.