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Police Bust Three on Drug Charges After Deal in Hotel Parking Lot

Peabody police and other law enforcement agents made a major drug bust Wednesday afternoon after observing a drug deal in the Holiday Inn parking lot.

announced Wednesday night that they arrested three out-of-state men earlier in the day at the on Route 1 and seized 11 kilos cocaine with a street value of $1.1 million.

Jason Grilli, 38, of Laval, Quebec; Valentine Torres, 33, of Juarez, N.M.; and Gerardo Rodriguez Florez, 27, of Tuscon, Ariz. were all charged with trafficking cocaine and conspiracy to violate drug laws. They were scheduled to be arraigned Thursday morning in .

A press release issued by Police Capt. Dennis Bonaiuto said the drug bust came after an investigation lead by Peabody detectives with help from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and a drug task force assigned to Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett's office. The statement did not indicate when the investigation first began.

Police said they said set up surveillance at the hotel early Wednesday afternoon and were able to identify the three suspects -- a cocaine transaction took place out in the parking lot around 12:15 p.m. The trio was arrested shortly afterward.

Police said Grilli was taken into custody out in the parking lot while Tores and Florez were arrested just inside the hotel. None of the three put up a fight.

“As a result of this seizure, a significant amount of cocaine has been taken off the streets of Peabody and the region," said Police Chief Robert Champagne in the press statement.

Champagne extended his thanks to his investigators, outside agents who assisted in the case and the hotel management for its cooperation.

“This is yet another example of the work that can be done with interagency cooperation among local, state and federal agencies. These types of partnerships are crucial if we are to be successful in our efforts to take these dangerous drugs off the streets,” said Blodgett.

If convicted of trafficking cocaine over 200 grams, the defendants face up to 20 years in state prison, with a minimum mandatory term of 15 years, according to police.

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