ATTLEBORO - The operator of a South Attleboro used car dealership was arraigned Friday with two alleged drug runners in the largest heroin bust in the city's history in which police seized an estimated half-million dollars worth of heroin from his business.
Basilio Quinones-Rosario, 67, the operator of Iyana Auto Sales at 116 Dickens St., was ordered held in jail without bail after pleading innocent in Attleboro District Court to trafficking in more than 200 grams of heroin and drug conspiracy.
Police seized almost 4 1/2 pounds of heroin at the car lot, and the investigation is ongoing.
Quinones-Rosario, also known as Felix Alberto Vicente, may also face drug charges in Rhode Island after authorities say they seized 7 kilograms of cocaine, a kilogram of crack cocaine and $50,000 cash from his home in Providence.
His lawyer, James Powderly of Fall River, declined to comment other than to say that his client is presumed innocent.
The alleged drug runners, Josue R. Soto, 41, and Abner Urizar-Ramos, 27, also of Providence, pleaded innocent to the same charges later Friday afternoon and were ordered held in jail on $100,000 cash or $1 million surety.
All three men were arrested in a raid by city police and agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement around 5 p.m. Thursday at the car dealership.
Authorities seized four bags of heroin totaling 4.4 pounds with one bag in an office drawer and three others in a briefcase under a car at the dealership, Assistant District Attorney Mark Donovan said.
"The officers tell me it's pure heroin. It's worth a half-million dollars," Donovan said during a bail hearing.
"That's certainly the biggest heroin bust in the city's history," said Attleboro Lt. John Otrando, commander of the detective unit. "I can't remember another one quite that size."
Authorities also seized $744 from Urizar-Ramos, $1,092 from Soto and an undisclosed sum of cash from inside the dealership allegedly linked to Quinones-Rosario, according to court records.
The raid was conducted after authorities received a tip from an informant that Quinones-Rosario was going to receive a large shipment of heroin at his business, police said.
Attleboro Detective Richard Campion obtained a search warrant from Atteboro District Court and police kept the business under surveillance before authorities saw a dark green Dodge Caravan the informant described enter the dealership, police said.
Lawyers Brenda Klein of Easton, who represented Urizar-Ramos, and James Sheridan of Attleboro, who represented Soto, said the police report contained no evidence linking their two clients to the heroin or that they knew the heroin was at the dealership.
"He totally denies he knows anything about any drugs at all," Klein said.
She said Urizar-Ramos is a Guatemalan with a valid tourist visa who frequently comes to the area and stays with Soto and buys cars to drive back to Guatemala to sell.
"He was going with a friend to go looking for cars at that time," Klein said.
She and Sheridan noted that the dealership was open for business at the time of the raid and added that no drugs were found on their clients.
Neither man has a criminal record, according to lawyers for both sides.
Soto was described by Sheridan as a married father of three children who is a self-employed truck driver who has lived in Providence for 20 years.
Both men are seeking to have their bail reviewed in superior court.
They are due back in Attleboro court March 3 for a probable cause hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to send the case to a grand jury to review for indictment.
In addition to Campion and Otrando, the other local detectives involved in the raid were Sgt. Arthur Brillon, Russell Castro and Jeffrey Peavey. Patrolman Rafael Ruano also assisted.
If convicted, the suspects face a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison.
Iyanna Auto Sales almost lost its license to operate late in 2009 when the business was cited by city officials for chronic violations of zoning rules.
According to inspectors, the business kept too many cars on its lot, hired more employees than allowed and kept the business open after specified closing hours.
The city council voted 7-3 against revoking its license after a hearing in December of 2009.
Iyanna's license was renewed with more stringent conditions for 2010.