New southeastern Connecticut regional task force seeing results in fighting heroin epidemic

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GROTON - Nearly three ounces doesn't sound like much, but it is a major score for the newly formed Regional Community Enhancement Task Force, which is waging war on the heroin epidemic in southeastern Connecticut.

“Obviously, there are people that are cooperating with us, including confidential informants,” said Det. Lt. John Varone, spokesperson for the Groton Town Police Department.

The task force, which includes members of local, state and federal law enforcement, staged a Tuesday afternoon surveillance at Groton Towers apartments, which yielded results.

“They followed a suspect over to one of the hotels in town,” said Varone.

That suspect, Samuel Miranda-Perez, 21, of New London, had six bags of heroin he said he was delivering for a drug dealer named “Junie.”

“He had made admissions that he knew that there was a large quantity, a softball size quantity of heroin, at a specific location in Groton Towers,” said Varone

The apartment complex is where investigators found Abdiel "Junie" Rodriguez, 19, of New London, in his girlfriend’s apartment, packaging 105 grams of heroin. One bag of heroin typically contains 1/10 of a gram. That means Rodriguez could potentially have been putting together over 1,000 bags, which sell for $6-$10 each.

“A subsequent presumptive test showed that it was tainted with Fentanyl,” said Varone. Fentanyl is an opioid that is up to 50 times more potent than heroin.

There is good news - almost 50 heroin-related arrests have been made in southeastern Connecticut since the task force formed less than two months ago. Varone says, public awareness and education have played a big role.

“We are receiving calls from the community, people that are not involved in narcotics itself, but are suspicious of behavior,” he said.

The regional task force says they are still looking into whether Rodriguez was involved in an East Lyme heroin arrest in January. In that case, the suspect, Anthony Ames, says he received heroin from Rodriguez in exchange for three guns that Ames had stolen.

On Monday, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn), will spend a “Day in the Life” meeting with patients, health professionals, law enforcement and advocates around the state to learn firsthand how he can improve federal efforts to combat this crisis. His first stop: the Groton Town Police Department, at 11:30, where he will meet with the members of the Regional Community Enhancement Task Force.

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