boston police fentanyl drug bust operation high hopes

Boston Police revealed Operation High Hopes Thursday. (Doug Cope/WBZ NewsRadio 1030)

BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- More than 30 alleged drug traffickers are behind bars and a large amount of deadly fentanyl has been taken off the streets following a major, months-long local drug investigation.

Officials said the investigation is one of the longest and most far-reaching anti-drug operations in state history, taking in 77 pounds of drugs--including 33 pounds of fentanyl.

The investigation began in July 2017 and was run by the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office's Narcotics Unit.

At a Thursday press conference announcing the bust, Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley said one of the principal alleged drug kingpins, Robert Contreras of Dorchester, has ties to a notorious Mexican drug cartel.

"We allege that the Contreras organization worked with members of the Sinaloa Mexican cartel, one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world," Conley said.

The other alleged ringleader, Edward Soto-Perez of Roxbury, was often photographed wearing a fedora, similar to those worn by Frank Sinatra.

That led police to dub the bust "Operation High Hopes," like the Sinatra song.

The operation began with traffickers in the city, but moved up the ladder to give investigators access to a second, higher-level group they allege to have cartel ties.

"Operation High Hopes has taken down one of the Boston area's top traffickers of fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and opiate painkillers," Conley said. "Investigators are still tallying the drugs and cash recovered this morning, but we expect the overall seizures over the length of the investigation to weigh in at some 35 kilograms of narcotics and $300,000 in drug money."

When investigators hit a wall in determining Soto-Perez's supplier, Conley said he authorized a wiretap, which was granted in September.

"In the months that followed, the court extended that wiretap eleven times, and improved interceptions on more than two dozen phones," Conley said. "Investigators doubled as code-breakers to reveal the criminal enterprise that was unfolding."

He said the wiretap led investigators to Contreras.

Conley said the investigation will have a lasting effect in the battle against the opioid epidemic.

"Our goal in these cases isn’t simply to make arrests," he said. "It’s not just to build cases.  It’s to disrupt an industry that causes addiction, overdose, and death."

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Doug Cope reports