Weymouth arrest finds new form of heroin in area
WEYMOUTH - Police worry that the arrest of a Mexican man on charges of selling black tar heroin in Weymouth last week is a signal that a new drug supply is infiltrating the town.
“Maybe it’s an isolated thing,’’ said Lieutenant Richard M. Fuller Jr. “But if he’s working for a bigger organization and trying to create a large market, it’s not a good sign.
“It means we need to prepare ourselves,’’ he added. “We already have a heroin problem. Is it going [to get] worse? He obviously has customers for the stuff. This guy didn’t drive all the way from Mexico to Weymouth just to sell 15 bags of black tar heroin; it’s got to be more involved than that.’’
Fuller said the heroin sold in Weymouth and throughout the Northeast is powdered - brought in by Asian, Colombian, and Dominican drug rings. Black tar heroin - which looks like its name, a black blobby substance - is controlled by the Mexican drug cartels and generally found in the South and Southwest, he said.
“For us to see [black tar heroin] here is a huge concern,’’ Fuller said. “It’s a small case, but it could be a sign of a big, big problem.’’
While state and federal narcotics officers would handle any potential turf war between illegal drug suppliers, the introduction of a new source of opiates would directly affect communities like Weymouth, Fuller said.
He said heroin already is a major problem in town, as it is in other communities south of Boston. Last year, Weymouth police made 11 arrests for trafficking in heroin and 11 for possession with intent to distribute, he said.
In addition, there were 41 reported overdoses last year, he said.
Between 2008 and 2010, 40 Weymouth residents died from opiate overdoses and 12 died from overdoses of other drugs, according to Lyn Frano, who coordinates the town’s substance abuse prevention programs. Introduction of yet another opiate into the town’s drug scene - especially one like black tar heroin, which has been called an inexpensive alternative to OxyContin - would only make the situation worse, she said.
Fuller, who called the heroin problem an epidemic, said he’s calling other police departments to tell them about the troubling arrest, and to see if they’ve seen black tar heroin in their communities. He said so far the drug hasn’t been reported recently in other towns.
Police were alerted to the existence of black tar heroin in Weymouth through calls to the mayor’s drug tip line, he said.
On Aug. 2, detectives followed 25-year-old Hazael Rodriguez to an East Weymouth neighborhood and saw him sell drugs to a known heroin user, who was stopped a short distance away and admitted to the $40 purchase, Fuller said. Police recovered a small bag containing about half a gram of black tar heroin, he said.
Police then stopped Rodriguez - who was driving a car registered to an unidentified Hingham woman - at the intersection of Broad and Washington streets and found 15 more bags of black tar heroin concealed in his mouth, Fuller said. He said police also seized three cellphones and about $500 in cash.
Rodriguez spoke Spanish and, through an interpreter, first told police he was homeless, but then said he was from Tepic, Mexico. The town has been in the news for several years with reports of drug-war related violence.
Rodriguez was charged with distribution of heroin, possession with intent to distribute heroin, and conspiracy to violate drug laws, Fuller said. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment and was being held at Norfolk County House of Correction in Dedham, Fuller said.
Fuller said the man who bought the heroin would be summoned to court to face charges.
Weymouth was one of several communities around the region that held candlelight vigils last weekend to remember those lost to opiate overdoses, and to support families struggling with opiate addictions.
Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.