PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence police say they are still searching for a known gang member believed to be a major heroin dealer in the city's downtown following an undercover drug sting that resulted in the arrests of 21 people.
Andre Vasquez, 27, was still at large Friday after searches at three of his known residences turned up heroin, crack cocaine, two guns and ammunition, according to warrants reviewed by WPRI.com.
Vasquez was considered one of the primary targets of "Operation HubCap," a six week investigation geared at curbing open air drug dealing in Kennedy Plaza. While the majority of arrests consisted of low-level dealers, police say Vasquez was "preparing, packaging, storing and distributing large quantities of heroin and a firearm from his residence."
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Detectives say a confidential source told them Vasquez also stored at least one high-powered firearm that has been used by various gang members in recent shootings inside of a black Mercedes Benz that was parked at 91 Laura Street. Officers saw ammunition on back seat and back floor of the car, according to the search warrant.
Vasquez was also believed to reside at 128 Mitchell Street and 71 Belmont Avenue, the warrant stated.
Searches at the three locations turned up heroin and crack cocaine as well as a .380 caliber firearm; a 410 sawed off shotgun; a bullet proof vest; and 9mm bullets. Police Chief Col. Hugh Clements said officials believe the shotgun was a "community gun" – meaning several individuals had access to the weapon.
Over the course of the investigation, undercover officers said they purchased heroin from Vasquez or witnessed him selling drugs more than a half dozen times. On one occasion Vasquez, who is also known as "Marco," rode his green motorcycle to the corner of Dorrance Street and Westminster to sell $40 worth of heroin.
Vasquez didn't just operate downtown.
On July 11, police say he left Kennedy Plaza to sell $100 worth of heroin of an undercover cop in the city's Washington Park neighborhood.
Four days later, he sold another $100 worth of heroin on Hollywood Street.
On July 17, Vasquez informed an undercover buyer that he had just "re-upped" and the two arranged another sale off Belmont Street in the city's Mount Pleasant neighborhood.
Detectives finally swooped in Monday after Vasquez sent fellow gang member Joseph Franklin, 24; Kassandra Cruz, 20; and Ana Cruzado, 23, to sell and undercover cop more heroin. All three were arrested.
In all, 36 arrest warrants were issued during the investigation. Clements said it is only a matter of time before all the suspects are caught.
"Operation HubCap targeted street level dealers in an effort to disrupt the open air drug market in the downtown and Kennedy Plaza area," Clements said. "This drug activity has a very negative impact of the quality of life downtown for the business community and for the law abiding citizens."