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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 22, 2018

8 Charged in Connection with Trafficking Cocaine and Heroin from Mexico to Springfield Area

Conspiracy includes approximately 32 kilos of cocaine and one kilo of pure fentanyl

BOSTON – Eight men have been charged in three indictments on narcotics and money laundering offenses. The indictments are the result of a 14-month wiretap investigation into a large-scale drug trafficking organization supplied by sources in Mexico and spanning at least four states.  

1. Miguel Betancourt, 50, of Springfield, was charged with conspiracy to distribute, and possess with intent to distribute cocaine and money laundering conspiracy;

2. Isaac Cardona, 31, of Springfield, was charged with conspiring to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, conspiring to traffic at least one kilogram of heroin, and money laundering conspiracy;

3. Rafael Cardona Sr., 58, of Springfield, was charged with conspiring to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, and conspiring to traffic at least one kilogram of heroin;

4. Victor Hugo Gonzalez, 27, of Perris, Calif., was charged with conspiring to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, and money laundering conspiracy;

5. Jose Martinez, 32, of Lehigh Acres, Fla., was charged with conspiring to traffic at least one kilogram of heroin, and money laundering conspiracy;

6. Carlos Mares Jr., 39, of Springfield, was charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine;

7. Lorenzo Deconinck, 59, of Jamaica, Vt., was charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine; and

8. Juan Ramos, 37, of Wardsboro, Vt., was charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine.

Betancourt, Rafael Cardona Sr., Isaac Cardona, Mares, Deconinck, and Ramos were arrested yesterday and arraigned in federal court in Springfield. Gonzalez was arrested and made his initial appearance in Irvine, Calif., on Oct. 6, 2017, but failed to appear for his scheduled arraignment in Springfield on Nov. 1, 2017. He is currently a fugitive.

A ninth co-conspirator, David Cruz, 40, of Westfield, Mass., was arrested in September 2016 and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, carrying a firearm in furtherance of a drug offense, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 6, 2018.

According to court documents, Betancourt, the Cardonas, Gonzalez, and Martinez conspired with Cruz to traffic cocaine and heroin from Mexico, through California, to the Springfield area and into New England. The conspiracy involved approximately 32 kilograms of cocaine and at least one kilogram of pure fentanyl.

Cruz allegedly received his first shipment of cocaine from his drug sources in Mexico in the summer of 2015. Cruz distributed five kilograms of that cocaine to Betancourt, leaving Betancourt with a large drug debt. In an attempt to pay down his drug debt, it is alleged that Betancourt used his Enfield, Conn., used-car dealership, State Line Auto Sales LLC, to convey two vehicles to Cruz and register them in Massachusetts in the name of a third-party. In December 2015, Betancourt used a bank account held in the name of the dealership to wire $9,500 of Cruz’s drug proceeds to a bank account in Michoacán, Mexico, held by a relative of one of his Mexican cocaine sources.  

It is further alleged that Cruz received additional shipments of cocaine from his Mexican sources in late 2015 and August 2016. In July 2016, the Mexican drug sources sent Gonzalez from California to Westfield, Mass., to oversee the arrival of a shipment of cocaine. According to surveillance videos, on Aug.2, 2016, the cocaine arrived, concealed in a vehicle, and Cruz and Gonzalez unloaded more than five kilograms of cocaine from the vehicle in a parking lot. Cruz then broke down and repackaged the cocaine for distribution in Vermont and Massachusetts, where approximately one and a half kilograms of cocaine was distributed to Isaac Cardona in early August 2016.  

At the direction of the Mexican sources and Cruz, Gonzalez, and another co-conspirator, then deposited the cash proceeds from the cocaine sales into multiple accounts held by third parties in amounts under $10,000 in order to avoid triggering the banks’ reporting requirements.

The indictments also allege that Isaac Cardona owed Cruz money for one kilogram of the cocaine Cruz had distributed to him, and, in order to pay down that debt, Isaac Cardona, Rafael Cardona Sr., Martinez, Cruz, and other co-conspirators conspired to import at least one kilogram of heroin (which turned out to be pure fentanyl) from sources in Mexico. In late August 2016, Isaac Cardona and Martinez traveled by car to San Diego, Calif., with cash to pay for the heroin. Cruz later traveled to San Diego, retrieved the car and the cash, and, on Sept. 8, 2016, used the cash to purchase what he believed to be one kilogram of heroin. According to court proceedings, law enforcement in California seized the vehicle and recovered approximately one kilogram of pure fentanyl. 

It is alleged that Mares, Deconinck, and Ramos purchased cocaine from Cruz for redistribution.

The charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin provide for a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison, a lifetime of supervised release, and a fine of up to $8 million. With a prior felony drug conviction, the charge of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years and up to life in prison, at least 10 years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $20 million. The charge of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and up to 40 years in prison, at least four years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $5 million. With a prior felony drug conviction, the charge of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison, at least eight years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $8 million. The charge of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, at least three years of supervised release, and a fine of $1 million. The charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, and a fine of not more than $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the money laundering. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Michael J. Ferguson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Field Division; and Joel P. Garland, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston, made the announcement today. DEA’s Carlsbad Resident Office, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Westfield Police Department assisted in the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Katharine A. Wagner of Lelling’s Springfield Office is prosecuting the case

The details contained in the indictments are allegations. The defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Component(s): 
Updated March 23, 2018