BEVERLY, Mass. — Police in a Massachusetts city are crediting the grieving father of a heroin overdose victim with helping them find the dealer they believe sold the fatal dose.

Beverly Farms, Massachusetts business owner Frank Raffa Sr., who had just found his son Frank Jr. unconscious on Saturday, handed his son’s iPhone to local police Detective Dana Nicholson “and he told me to take the phone and do whatever I could to find out who sold his son the drugs that did this to him,” Nicholson wrote in a report.
Now, as the Raffa family prepares to bury their son, a man named Jose Paulino, 26, of Dorchester, Massachusetts, is being held on $20,000 bail, charged with heroin distribution, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and conspiracy to violate the drug laws.
Nicholson and other local detectives used the iPhone to pose as Frank Raffa Jr., then lured Paulino to Beverly to buy two more bags of heroin from him.
Since Nicholson doesn’t look like Raffa, the detective came up with another ruse, telling Paulino in a text message that he was sending out one of his employees to conduct the transaction because, he claimed, his father was around.
The plan worked. Nicholson, dressed in the type of clothes and gear a contractor usually wears, and covered with sawdust, walked out to the Volvo and pretended to be an employee of Raffa’s.
After making the deal, other detectives moved in and arrested Paulino, who they say had also hidden five other small “twists” (the corners of plastic bags) in his mouth.
Police believe Paulino had also been distributing heroin in the city on Easter Sunday because he’d sent a text message to Raffa Jr. asking if he wanted drugs.
They would later find pieces of plastic bags with cocaine residue in a toilet at the station, according to a police report. They believe Paulino was hiding that drug between his buttocks and, while in the holding cell after booking, tried to flush the drugs.
After hearing details of the case on Tuesday, Salem District Court Judge Matthew Machera increased Paulino’s bail from the $5,000 set by a bail clerk over the weekend to $20,000 cash, citing the overdose death among his reasons.
Frank Raffa Sr. said he didn’t think twice about handing over his son’s phone. “I would help any police officer,” he said.
He thanked the Beverly police for their quick work and for all the efforts they made before his son’s death as well. “They’re all great,” Raffa said. “They worked so hard for so long to try to save Frankie’s life.”
And while he knows that one small dealer taken off the street won’t save all the other families out there, it’s a start.
“I’m going to work my hardest to help young people,” Raffa said. “We’ve got to get more people behind this.”
Frank Raffa Jr. was 33 and a father of a 3-year-old son. He was preparing to someday take over the family’s construction business, according to his obituary.
In his obituary, family members described his “great sense of humor” and his personable nature, but also his talent for woodworking.
A funeral Mass for Raffa Jr. will take place Friday morning in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. Paulino, meanwhile, is scheduled to appear in court again on April 6.