19 charged in state's largest cocaine seizure

Authorities say they impounded about $20 million in cocaine and broke up an international drug operation.
BOSTON - An investigation that began with a discarded cellular phone resulted in the arrest of 19 people in four states yesterday in what authorities called the biggest cocaine bust in Massachusetts history.

The 19 and two others arrested in an earlier incident were indicted yesterday as a result of the seizure of 260 kilograms of cocaine worth more than $20 million earlier this month. The suspects, at least seven of whom are from the same family, are charged with conspiring to distribute cocaine in southeastern Massachusetts, assistant U.S. Attorney Heidi Brieger said.

"What this means is that a large, international cocaine conspiracy has been dismantled," Brieger said.

The investigation began April 5 when authorities in New York found a cellphone inside a truck containing 310 kilograms of cocaine and other drugs, as well as $422,000 in cash.

A phone number programmed into the phone's memory was allegedly for ringleader Rafael Yeje-Cabrera, 26, of Westport, who has ties to a Mexican drug cartel.

The investigation into the 21 suspects included Cabrera's parents, Nerys Cabrera, 47, of New Bedford, and Farid Yeje, 51, of Atlanta two uncles, Jose Cabrera, 36, and Miguel Cabrera, 37, both of New Bedford a younger brother, Jose Yeje, 26, of Westport and a cousin, William Oliviero, 24, of New York.

Investigators got a break on Dec. 8, when a state police cruiser pulled up behind a tractor trailer stopped in the middle of Acushnet Avenue in New Bedford.

Driver Fausto Mena, who was lost, backed the truck into the police cruiser. When the officer searched the truck, he found 260 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of $20.8 million, Brieger said. Mena, 40, of Nogales, Ariz., and the passenger, Riccardo Coronado, 40, of Tucson, Ariz., were arrested.

Yesterday, authorities executed search warrants in Atlanta, New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, resulting in 19 arrests - including Rafael Yeje-Cabrera - and seizures of cocaine, cash and marijuana. Two people, William Oliviero and Abismael Castillo, 27, of Woonsocket, R.I., are still at large.