Naturalized U.S. Citizen Charged with Fraudulently Obtaining Citizenship by Failing to Disclose Role in Abuse of Prisoners
John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that GISEL DE LA CRUZ, 44, of East Hartford, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Victor A. Bolden in Bridgeport to 72 months of imprisonment, followed by four years of supervised release, for heroin trafficking and immigration offenses.
According to court documents and statements made in court, in October 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Hartford Task Force began an investigation of an organization that was trafficking large quantities of heroin, fentanyl and other narcotics in Connecticut and western Massachusetts. The investigation, which included court-authorized wiretaps, controlled purchases of narcotics and physical surveillance, revealed that members of the organization were receiving bulk quantities of heroin and fentanyl from out-of-state suppliers. They then stored, processed and packaged the heroin/fentanyl in multiple locations, including apartments located at 280 Collins Street in Hartford where some members of the organization also resided, and then distributed the drug in the Hartford area, and also the Springfield and Holyoke, Massachusetts area. A significant amount of drug trafficking activity occurred at the Neighborhood Supermarket, located at 316 Farmington Avenue in Hartford, which was owned and operated by DE LA CRUZ.
Investigators made multiple controlled purchases of heroin and fentanyl from DE LA CRUZ and other members of the drug trafficking organization in and around the Neighborhood Supermarket.
The investigation also revealed that DE LA CRUZ’s boyfriend, who lived with DE LA CRUZ, helped her run the store and assisted in the drug trafficking operation, was a citizen of the Dominican Republic who had previously been deported after a conviction for a federal narcotics offense. DE LA CRUZ paid $20,000 to smuggle her boyfriend back into the U.S. and, in December 2016, her boyfriend illegally reentered the country using fake Venezuelan identification documents.
During the investigation, law enforcement executed 12 search warrants in Connecticut and Massachusetts and seized approximately 10 kilograms of heroin and fentanyl, much of which was packaged for resale in hundreds of thousands of bags. Investigators also seized numerous vials of Xylazine, which is a horse tranquilizer used by narcotics traffickers as a heroin additive. Seven firearms also were seized.
DE LA CRUZ has been detained since her arrest on June 29, 2017. On May 23, 2018, she pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin, and one count of encouraging and inducing an alien to illegally come to, enter and reside in the U.S.
Fourteen individuals have been charged with various narcotics, firearms and immigration offenses as a result of this investigation.
The DEA’s Hartford Task Force includes personnel from the DEA Hartford Resident Office and the Bristol, Hartford, East Hartford, Manchester, New Britain, Rocky Hill, Wethersfield, Windsor Locks and Willimantic Police Departments. Agencies assisting the investigation include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Marshals Service and Connecticut State Police.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey M. Stone.