Italian police on Wednesday broke up an alleged criminal group. The 19 migrants allegedly sold heroin and marijuana in the central Italian town of Prato.
Police in the Tuscan town of Prato, along with the Central Operational Service of the Central Anti-Crime Directorate, on Wednesday arrested 19 people charged with drug dealing.
Thirteen were placed in jail, five were given residence bans, and one was issued a residence ban with mandatory police check-ins.
Many of the suspects were asylum seekers. All are younger than 30 years old and originally from Africa. 17 of the suspects are from Nigeria, one is Guinean and one is Ghanaian.
Heroin and marijuana
Investigators said the group had been dealing heroin and marijuana for several years in Prato, in particular near the central train station.
Prato Prosecutor Giusepe Nicolosi said the operation was carried out by undercover police to "dismantle the drug-dealing labor force in the city's square."
The investigation into the drug ring began in September 2019.
Prato police had been tracing the routes of the alleged drug dealers and their clients -- commuters from nearby provinces -- to locate the drug dealing operation at the central train station.
Many small deals
In this case, the authorities treated a series of small drug deals by the same person as serious drug dealing, allowing them to place the suspects in pre-trial custody.
"We ... reclassified many episodes classified under comma 5 of the penal code -- that is, dealing modest quantities that don't allow for placing the suspect in pre-trial custody in jail -- as comma 1 episodes," said Francesco Messina, director of the Italian police's Central Anti-Crime Directorate.