New London man near top of heroin trafficking conspiracy to serve 70 months

Xavier Cluff, described by the U.S. Attorney’s office as one of the largest and most frequent customers of a man at the top of a heroin trafficking operation in southeastern Connecticut, was sentenced in U.S. District Court Tuesday to 70 months in prison followed by four years of supervised release.

Cluff, 41, of New London, has been detained at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I., since he was arrested in April 2013 along with about 100 others following a months-long investigation by multiple agencies into large-scale trafficking of heroin and cocaine between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico and southeastern Connecticut. In December 2013, Cluff pleaded guilty before Judge Janet Bond Arterton to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin.

Cluff was one of the largest and best customers of Luis Ariel Capellan Maldonado, who received heroin from sources in the Dominican Republic and distributed it to a variety of customers in southeastern Connecticut, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Cluff and his partner, Ramon Garcia, met with Maldonado frequently at his apartment at 98 Hawthorne Drive in New London or at other locations to obtain large quantities — usually 100 to 150 grams — of raw heroin, according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah P. Karwan.

Investigators using court-approved wiretaps and physical surveillance techniques learned that Cluff would call to arrange the deals and drop off the money and Garcia would pick up the heroin, according to the memorandum. Garcia has also pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced in May.

Capellan Maldonado typically sold the heroin at the wholesale level of $65 per gram, according to the memorandum, and it was worth more after it was broken up and packaged.

“This was a large and wide heroin conspiracy, especially in light of the small size of New London, and Mr. Cluff played a significant role in the operation,” according to the memo.

Cluff, who has a criminal history dating back to 1993 that includes two convictions for risk of injury to a minor and two for assault, was upset with Capellan Maldonado in November 2013 because he suspected Capellan Maldonado was selling his product to Cluff’s customers, according to the memorandum. Cluff warned Capellan Maldonado that he would “sucker punch” him.

In the defense’s sentencing memorandum to the court, attorney Richard A. Reeve argued for a reduced sentence, saying Cluff and others pooled their money to obtain the heroin and that he sold it in smaller amounts than the government asserted in order to support his addiction to Percocet pain pills, which he used as a form of self-medication “to numb his pain and sadness” and to support his children and family.


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