Massachusetts State Police, federal agents and members of a joint task force apprehended two Mexican people who brought 15 kilograms of cocaine into the state from Mexico in a tractor-trailer Monday. The two suspects were arrested after officers witnessed a narcotics transaction at the Ludlow Service Plaza.

Gerardo Madrigal Quintero, 23, of Culiacan, Mexico, and Joel Enrique Armenta Castro, 30, of Mochis Sinaloa, Mexico, were taken into custody by State Troopers, FBI Boston special agents and task force officers assigned to the FBI Boston Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force, including members of the State Police Narcotics Section. Both men have been charged by the state with trafficking in 200 grams or more of cocaine and conspiracy to violate drug law. The men are being prosecuted by Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni’s Office.

“The cocaine that troopers, agents, and task force officers prevented from reaching the streets of Massachusetts through this investigation was worth more than half a million dollars to its suppliers in Mexico,” said Colonel Christopher Mason, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police. “Had it reached its destination it would have been cut up, packaged, and sold throughout our communities, and it would have caused violence, ruined families, and ended lives. The Massachusetts State Police will continue to work with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners to interdict drug traffickers and their deadly product.”

Officials said they seized approximately 15 kilograms of cocaine and the tractor-trailer that Quintero was driving. The current estimated street value of the drugs is more than $500,000.

The arrests stemmed from information, developed through an FBI investigation, that two Mexican suppliers were heading to Massachusetts to deliver a large load of cocaine from Mexico. Investigators tracked the tractor-trailer operated by Quintero to the Ludlow Service Plaza and after witnessing an exchange of narcotics between Quinteroand Castro, agents, task force officers, and Troopers took Castro into custody. Troopers from the State Police-Westfield Barracks stopped the tractor-trailer unit operated by Quintero a short time later on Route 91 South in Longmeadow and took him into custody without incident.

“These arrests are a direct result of the hard work and dedication shared between federal, state, and local law enforcement in our efforts to identify and remove large-scale drug traffickers from our communities,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “In preventing 15 kilos of cocaine from Mexico from hitting Massachusetts streets, there’s no question our neighborhoods are much safer.”

“The threats to public health and safety posed by narcotic traffickers and the illicit drug trade is significant and widespread,” District Attorney Gulluni said. “This very substantial seizure comes with a tremendous amount of work, and I thank the agencies involved for their vigilance, resources, and expertise for in combating these very dangerous individuals and the organizations they serve.”

This case is being investigated by the Boston Organized Drug Enforcement Strike Force which includes the FBI Boston Division, members of the Massachusetts State Police Narcotics Section, the Concord, Hudson, Peabody, Reading, Waltham and Watertown Police Departments, Massachusetts Department of Correction, and the Norfolk County Sheriff’s Department.

The defendants were arraigned by District Attorney Gulluni’s office Tuesday. Both were held without bail pending dangerousness hearings scheduled for Friday, September 2.

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