Police bust marijuana operation, arrest convicted murderer

Police bust marijuana operation, arrest convicted murderer

One of two men arrested by Rhode Island State Police for allegedly running an illegal marijuana operation in Johnston is a former convicted murderer who was out on parole. Gerald Mastracchio, age 52, of 420 Woodward Road, North Providence, previously served time for the 1979 killing of Richard Valente.

In May, members of the Rhode Island State Police Intelligence Unit, along with members of the North Providence and Johnston Police Departments, investigated reports of an illegal marijuana cultivation and distribution operation run by Mastracchio. The three-month investigation culminated with a July 31 search of 122 Putnam Pike, Johnston, where detectives discovered a marijuana operation allegedly facilitated by Mastracchio and a co-conspirator identified as Joseph Ziroli, age 53, who lived at that address.

Police seized about 28 marijuana plants, as well as digital scales and packaging materials. Detectives also searched 135 Central Ave. in Johnston where they seized about 3.5 pounds of marijuana, packaging materials and instruments. At the time of his arrest, Mastracchio presented a valid medical marijuana patient card, but he was well in excess of the amount of marijuana allowed by law, according to police.

Mastracchio was arrested and taken to State Police headquarters where he was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, cultivation of marijuana and conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to deliver. Mastracchio’s parole officer was notified of the arrest and lodged a warrant for violation of parole.

Last Friday, Mastracchio was arraigned in District Court before Judge Clifton and was ordered held without bail. A bail status hearing is set for Aug. 7.

Joseph Ziroli was also taken into custody without incident and charged with possession of marijuana. He was arraigned before Justice of the Peace McCaffery and released on $1,000 personal recognizance.

The investigation is ongoing and more charges are expected.

In 1985, Mastracchio was arrested by the Rhode Island State Police for the 1979 murder of Richard Valente. Valente, who was 13 years old at the time of his death, was beaten on his head and face with a baseball bat and tossed, while only partially conscious, from the Jamestown Bridge into the Narragansett Bay. In 1987, Mastracchio was convicted of first-degree murder after a jury trial and sentenced to life in prison. In 1990, while serving his sentence, Mastracchio was charged and convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit murder. After serving 23 years of a life sentence, he was released from prison, but was later returned there for violating the conditions of his parole. He was paroled a second time on May 15, 2012.