BOSTON STRONG news – MA Office of the Attorney General reports 6.20.2019 –

AG Healey Announces Office’s Largest Opioid Trafficking Takedown with Federal, State, and Local Partners

Authorities Seize More Than 25 Kilograms of Heroin/Fentanyl and Cocaine; 14 Individuals Arrested Following Large-Scale Joint Investigation of AG’s Fentanyl Strike Force

BOSTON — Following a large-scale joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Fentanyl Strike Force with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, 14 people were arrested and arraigned in connection with a major heroin/fentanyl trafficking operation in Methuen and Lawrence, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.

During the investigation, authorities seized more than 25 kilograms of heroin/fentanyl and cocaine, four firearms, and nearly $100,000 in cash, the largest takedown of an opioid trafficking operation in the history of the AG’s Office in Massachusetts.  

These charges are the result of an extensive investigation involving AG Healey’s Enterprise, Major and Cyber Crime Division, the AG’s Digital Evidence Lab, Massachusetts State Police assigned to the AG’s Office and the Commonwealth Interstate Narcotics Reduction Enforcement Team (CINRET), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Methuen and Woburn Police Departments, and the Essex County Sheriff’s Department.  

“This operation demonstrates the power and impact of inter-agency collaboration in tackling the opioid epidemic,” said AG Healey. “I want to thank our partners in federal, state, and local law enforcement for working with us to dismantle drug networks, prosecute traffickers, and keep these deadly drugs out of our communities. I know this takedown is going to save lives.”

Authorities executed search warrants at 14 locations in Methuen and Lawrence on Wednesday that resulted in the seizure of 13.7 kilos of fentanyl/heroin and 6.8 kilos of cocaine; four firearms, including a loaded Ruger semi-automatic handgun, two .22 caliber handguns, one .45 Glock, and several rounds of ammunition; and $98,860 in cash. An additional two kilos of fentanyl/heroin and three kilos of cocaine were seized during the course of the investigation.

The investigation began in 2017 and culminated in this week’s takedown after months of undercover operations and cutting-edge surveillance of a sophisticated drug distribution enterprise with connections to other networks in the northeast and managed by traffickers as far away as New Jersey.

“Fentanyl is causing great damage to our communities and DEA’s top priority is to aggressively pursue anyone who distributes this poison in order to profit and destroy lives,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Boyle. “Illegal drug distribution ravages the very foundations of our families and communities so every time we take fentanyl off the streets, lives are saved. This investigation demonstrates the strength of collaborative local, state, and federal law enforcement efforts and our strong partnership with Attorney General Healey’s Office.”

“Homeland Security Investigations appreciates the dedicated teamwork of state and federal law enforcement partners that brought about the results of today’s coordinated law enforcement operation and investigation,” said Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. “Today’s actions are a strong proof of how vital cooperation between local, state, and federal partners can be in protecting our communities throughout the Commonwealth from the dangerous threat of narcotics and those who deal them. With the critical help of the Attorney General and our local and federal law enforcement partners, we are making real progress together against those who seek to flood our streets with poison and in the fight against the impacts of the devastating opioid and fentanyl epidemic that has ravaged the lives of so many communities throughout the region.”

“Working collaboratively with our law enforcement partners to enhance public safety in Essex County is a priority of our department,” said Essex County Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger. “We will continue to support operations to make our community safer for all.”

These 12 individuals were arrested yesterday and arraigned in Lawrence District Court by Judge Michael A. Uhlarik on the following charges:

Ramon Cruz-Gonzalez, 45, of Lawrence

  • Fentanyl Trafficking, Over 10 Grams (one count)
  • Cocaine Trafficking, Over 200 Grams (one count)
  • Conspiracy to Violate the Controlled Substance Act (one count)
  • Bail set at $1 million cash

Israel Santiago Ortiz (aka “Simpson”), 39, of Methuen

  • Fentanyl Trafficking, Over 10 Grams (one count)  
  • Cocaine Trafficking, Over 200 Grams (one count)
  • Conspiracy to Violate the Controlled Substance Act (one count)
  • Bail set at $1 million cash

Alberto Santana Santos, 36, of Lawrence

  • Fentanyl Trafficking, Over 10 Grams (one count)
  • Cocaine Trafficking, Over 200 Grams (one count)
  • Possession of a Firearm During a Felony (two counts)
  • Conspiracy to Violate the Controlled Substance Act (one count)
  • Bail set at $1 million cash

Robinson Adames Abreu (aka “Papa”), 52, of Methuen 

  • Fentanyl Trafficking, Over 10 Grams (one count)
  • Cocaine Trafficking, Over 200 Grams (one count)
  • Conspiracy to Violate the Controlled Substance Act (one count)
  • Bail set at $500,000 cash

Jose Lugo-Garcia, 21, of Lawrence

  • Fentanyl Trafficking, Over 10 Grams (one count)
  • Cocaine Trafficking, Over 200 Grams (one count)
  • Conspiracy to Violate the Controlled Substance Act (one count)
  • Bail set at $500,000 cash

Raul Martinez, 32, of Lawrence

  • Fentanyl Trafficking, Over 10 Grams (one count)
  • Cocaine Trafficking, Over 200 Grams (one count)
  • Conspiracy to Violate the Controlled Substance Act (one count)
  • Bail set at $500,000 cash

Omar Acevedo (aka “Prieto”), 37, of Methuen

  • Fentanyl Trafficking, Over 10 Grams (one count)
  • Possession of a Firearm During a Felony (two counts)
  • Possession of a Class B Substance (one count)  
  • Conspiracy to Violate the Controlled Substance Act (one count)
  • Bail set at $250,000 cash

Jhonny Mota-Rodriguez, 24, of Lawrence

  • Fentanyl Trafficking, Over 10 Grams (three counts)
  • Cocaine Distribution (one count)
  • Conspiracy to Violate the Controlled Substance Act (two counts)
  • Bail set at $50,000 cash

Cirio Delores Acevedo, 36, of Lawrence

  • Fentanyl Trafficking, Over 10 Grams (one count)
  • Conspiracy to Violate the Controlled Substance Act (one count)
  • Bail set at $50,000 cash

Yeltsin De La Cruz, 28, of Lawrence

  • Fentanyl Trafficking, Over 10 Grams (one count)
  • Conspiracy to Violate the Controlled Substance Act (one count)
  • Bail set at $50,000 cash

Sulerka Mercado, 37, of Methuen

  • Possession of a Firearm (one count)
  • Possession of a Class B Substance (one count)
  • Conspiracy to Violate the Controlled Substance Act (one count)
  • Bail set at $50,000 cash

Jason Emery, 43, of Lawrence

  • Fentanyl Trafficking, Over 10 Grams (one count)
  • Bail set at $15,000 cash

The following individuals were arrested on June 17 and arraigned in Ayer District Court by Judge Margaret R. Guzman:

Jocheiry Acevedo Hernandez, 31, of Methuen

  • Fentanyl Trafficking, Over 10 Grams (one count)
  • Cocaine Trafficking, Over 200 Grams (one count)
  • Possession of a Class A Substance (one count)
  • Possession of a Class B Substance (one count)
  • Possession with Intent to Distribute a Class A Substance (one count)
  • Possession with Intent to Distribute a Class B Substance (one count)
  • Bail set at $50,000 cash, revoked due to a separate ongoing case

Maricely Carrion Ramos, 34, of Lawrence

  • Fentanyl Trafficking, Over 10 Grams (one count)
  • Cocaine Trafficking, Over 200 Grams (one count)
  • Possession of a Class A Substance (one count)
  • Possession of a Class B Substance (one count)
  • Possession with Intent to Distribute a Class A Substance (one count)
  • Possession with Intent to Distribute a Class B Substance (one count)
  • Bail set at $15,000, revoked due to a separate ongoing case

This investigation is ongoing. These charges are allegations and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The AG’s Office has been working closely with its federal, state and local partners to combat illegal drug trafficking. AG Healey formed a Fentanyl Strike Force to more aggressively combat the heroin and prescription drug abuse crisis in New England. In October 2018, the Office announced the Fentanyl Strike Force had been awarded a nearly $3 million grant to expand its efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and disrupt drug and fentanyl trafficking throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The AG’s Office won this grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services Anti-Heroin Task Force grant program and was one of just 17 proposals funded nationally and the only awarded in New England.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Gina Masotta and Chief Gina Kwon, both of the AG’s Enterprise, Major and Cyber Crimes Division.