One of 2 brothers convicted in Erie federal court

The federal investigation into an Erie-based cocaine-heroin ring found the six-member operation was a family affair.

The first of the convicted relatives was convicted for his role in the ring, in which he pleaded guilty to trafficking around 1.5 ounces of heroin in 2018 – enough to supply 150 to 200 doses on the street.

The accused, Alberto Arroyo-Amaro, 24, was sentenced on Monday to 1.5 years in federal prison and three years of probation. He and the other defendants were accused of being part of a conspiracy that shipped the drugs to Erie from Puerto Rico through US mail.

Alberto Arroyo-Amaro faces a sentence within the recommended range of one year and nine months to two years and three months. U.S. District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter, whose Arroyo-Amaro was sentenced in the Erie federal courthouse, credited him with pleading guilty and said his young age favored him.

But Baxter also said “the scourge of heroin in our community has led to many broken hearts and broken families.”

Arroyo-Amaro was fifth on the list of six defendants charged in the drug ring in March 2020. Sixth on the list is Arroyo-Amaro’s brother, Brayan Oma Arroyo-Amaro. The siblings had lower-level duties in the operation, the government said.

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The two are the sons of Orlando Arroyo-Figueroa, who is listed second in the indictment, the government said. Orlando Arroyo-Figueroa was one of three defendants who “made up all the management elements” of the drug operation, the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Sellers, said in court documents.

The sellers said in court that the amount of heroin Alberto Arroyo-Amaro was charged with was 150 to 200 doses. The sellers asked Baxter to impose a penalty within the indicative range.

The other defendants are Abimael Arroyo-Garcia, the main defendant; Braulio Arroyo-Figueroa, ranked third in the indictment; and Jonathan Roman Vargas, ranked fourth in the indictment.

Vargas is the only defendant who has not pleaded guilty or made arrangements to plead guilty, according to court records. Alberto Arroyo-Amaro and his brother are believed to be related to some of the other defendants, in addition to their father, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

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The next defendant to be sentenced in this case is Orlando Arroyo-Figueroa. He will appear before Baxter on Wednesday and faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison, according to court records. Brayan Arroyo-Amaro is expected to be sentenced on September 9.

The case

The indictment alleged that the six defendants, all Erie residents, conspired to bring cocaine and heroin to Erie from Puerto Rico for more than two years, ending in February 2020. Investigators in the part of the investigation seized four kilograms of cocaine, approximately 4 pounds, worth $250,000; more than 300 grams of heroin, or approximately 11 ounces; two guns; and more than $72,000 in cash, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Pennsylvania State Police investigated with the United States Postal Inspection Service and investigators from the Department of Homeland Security.

Alberto Arroyo-Amaro, who was sentenced on Monday, pleaded guilty in December to one count of distributing less than 100 grams of heroin. He had a criminal record for a 2018 heroin-related conviction in Erie County Common Pleas Court, court records show. The father-of-two, who said he previously worked as a landscaper, speaks Spanish and apologized through an interpreter in federal court.

“I want to be a better dad,” Arroyo-Amaro said. “I want to be a better person.”

The ring involving Alberto Arroyo-Amaro is one of two major drug operations being prosecuted in U.S. District Court in Erie. In May, a federal grand jury indicted 25 people with conspiracy to distribute up to 220 pounds of cocaine worth $3.2 million in Erie from January 2020 to May 2022.

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The drugs were shipped by US Post from Puerto Rico to Erie, according to the indictment.

Contact Ed Palattella at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ETNpalattella.