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Reputed mob leader among four arrested on heroin charges

Police say group ran drug ring on North Shore

By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / May 22, 2010

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LYNN — He has robbed an armored vehicle, been caught with guns, and chosen to serve jail time rather than testify about organized crime murders. And now, at 50 years old, Mark Rossetti is accused of protecting drug dealers.

Rossetti, a reputed capo in the New England Mafia, was arrested at his East Boston home Thursday with three other men, charged with trafficking roughly 150 grams of heroin.

But prosecutors allege that Rossetti’s role went beyond drug dealer: As a leading figure in what is left of the mob, Rossetti allegedly served as a facilitator, a protector of drug dealers and drug buyers.

“He is the one who puts it all together,’’ First Assistant Essex District Attorney John Dawley said yesterday.

Dawley added that “his role as capo gives him certain prominence in certain criminal circles, drug dealers being one of them.’’

Rossetti, looking weak and slumping over as he appeared in Lynn District Court, shackled to his codefendants, pleaded not guilty to charges of trafficking heroin and conspiracy to violate drug laws. He was ordered held on $250,000 cash bail, and the case was continued to June 22.

His codefendants also pleaded not guilty to the trafficking heroin and conspiracy charges: Robert Ciampi, 49, of East Boston, was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail; Juan Valdez, 22, of Lynn, was ordered held on $50,000 cash bail; and Henderson Martinez, 21, of Boston, was ordered held on $10,000 cash bail.

According to Dawley and court records, the four men were identified in a sophisticated undercover operation by State and local police making up an Essex County Drug Task Force. The operation began about two months ago after undercover officers bought drugs from a criminal enterprise Valdez ran on the North Shore, Dawley said.

The ensuing investigation, with electronic surveillance, also led to East Boston and to Rossetti and Ciampi, Dawley said. He said detectives discovered a significant drug-dealing operation, with Valdez selling drugs to people including Ciampi, who would in turn sell them in his own community.

“We saw it every single day, multiple times a day, multiple customers,’’ Dawley said.

Detectives obtained what is known as an anticipatory warrant, because it was based on the expectation of a drug deal. Authorities were only allowed to execute the warrant if three factors played out: Valdez would drive from Lynn straight to Rossetti’s house, Ciampi would be there, and Rossetti would be there.

And it happened as expected Thursday afternoon, Dawley said.

Police surrounded Rossetti’s home after Valdez and Martinez arrived. In a hidden compartment in the car, they allegedly found 142 grams of heroin. Ciampi and Rossetti were in the home and were arrested.

A subsequent search of two homes in Lynn discovered another 10 grams of heroin, $27,000 in cash, and a loaded handgun, Dawley said. He would not say at which home detectives found the evidence.

Defense attorneys in the case tried to distance their clients from the drugs and from Rossetti. Attorneys for Martinez and Valdez said yesterday that the car is not registered to Valdez and that he may have not known the drugs were there. Attorney George Abi-Esber said Ciampi had no connection to the drugs.

And Rossetti’s attorney, Randi J. Potash, said that police found no drugs or significant cash in his home. “If he is supposed to be such a big kingpin, where is all the money?’’ she said. “Where are all the drugs?’’

Potash said that Rossetti has severe arthritis and is on a state disability subsidy.

“He can barely stand over here,’’ she said.

The defense attorneys also objected to Dawley’s accusations of a larger criminal enterprise, saying prosecutors have submitted no evidence beyond the arrests and the drugs that were allegedly seized Thursday.

A simultaneous raid conducted in Revere, as part of the same police operation, discovered another 18 grams of heroin, steroids, and $2,200 in cash, believed to be the proceeds from drug sales, according to court records. Two men were arrested in that raid.

Milton Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com.

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