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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 10, 2022

Five Members of Violent Criminal Enterprise Arrested in Cocaine Trafficking Conspiracy

12 firearms and approximately 400 grams of cocaine seized during arrest

BOSTON – Five members of a violent criminal enterprise were arrested and charged today in connection with a drug trafficking conspiracy that distributed large amounts of cocaine and cocaine base (crack cocaine) throughout Western Massachusetts.

“These defendants are alleged to have inundated Western Massachusetts with cocaine and crack cocaine – fueling violence and capitalizing on the devastating opioid and drug crises,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “Today, thanks to the exceptional work by a multitude of dedicated law enforcement agencies, this violent criminal enterprise has been brought to its knees. Our investigation demonstrates the strength of collaboration among state, local, and federal law enforcement and the invaluable positive impact that work can have on safety in our communities. My office will continue to partner with law enforcement, medical experts and community organizations to reclaim our impacted neighborhoods.”

“Today’s arrests have dismantled a violent criminal enterprise headed by Vincente Gonzalez which we believe is responsible for flooding the streets of western Massachusetts with cocaine and crack cocaine while using firearms, force, and intimidation to protect their turf,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “This case is just one example of how the FBI’s Western Massachusetts Gang Task Force is working with our law enforcement partners to stop the senseless violence that is a blight on our neighborhoods, and to make them safer places to live and raise a family.”

“I would like to thank the brave and hardworking men and women of the Holyoke Police Department, FBI Gang task Force, ATF, DEA, US Marshals, Massachusetts State Police, and the Hampden County Sheriffs for their dedication to duty and to the citizens of Holyoke. Today's search warrants will significantly damage the narcotic sales taking place in Holyoke. The criminals that were arrested today along with their operations being grounded to a halt, will have a great impact on the quality of life for Holyoke citizens. The narcotic sales from these locations brought gun violence to our streets, endangered the children of Holyoke and increased the opiate abuse within our City,” said Holyoke Police Chief David Pratt. “I am aware there is more hard work to be done but I am confident in the success of Holyoke due to the cooperation between our citizens and law enforcement

Springfield Police Superintendent Cheryl C. Clapprood stated, “I’d like to thank our federal partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI, our Springfield Police Firearms Investigation Unit and Warrant Apprehension Unit for their work in taking numerous illegal firearms and illicit drugs off the street in both Springfield and Holyoke Thursday morning. By sharing intelligence and having a dedicated Springfield Police Officer in the FBI Task Force we are able to work together across the region to combat senseless gun violence. The results of this Gang Task Force investigation puts a dent in the illegal drug trade across western Massachusetts and sends a clear message to the individuals possessing illegal firearms. We fully support and are thankful for the U.S. Attorney’s Offices’ efforts to address and reduce gun violence in our community.”

The following individuals were arrested and charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cocaine base:

  1. Vicente Gonzalez, 41, of Springfield;
  2. Brigham Ocasio-Rosario, 44, of Springfield;
  3. Miguel Burgos, 45, of Holyoke;
  4. Khristy Guzman, 37, of Holyoke; and
  5. Willie Watkins, 42, of Springfield;

According to court documents, investigators identified Gonzalez to be the leader of a violent criminal enterprise operating in Hampden County. During the investigation, controlled purchases and intercepted communications between Gonzalez and his co-conspirators revealed that, beginning in or about July 2021, the defendants allegedly prepared and trafficked large amounts of cocaine and crack cocaine in the Holyoke and Springfield areas.

In furtherance of the trafficking activity, the investigation revealed that the enterprise used violence and threats of violence to control Gonzalez’s territory in Holyoke. For example, court documents allege that in July 2021, Gonzalez, Ocasio and other co-conspirators attempted a violent armed kidnapping at the enterprise’s drug sale location in Holyoke. During the incident, Gonzalez and Ocasio allegedly brandished and pointed firearms at the victim and, after the victim fled the building, chased and attempted to detain the victim with their firearms.

Today, investigators seized approximately 400 grams of cocaine, cocaine base, 12 firearms, ammunition, drug proceeds and drug packaging materials.

The charge of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cocaine base provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to a lifetime of supervised release and a fine of up to $1 million.  Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

U.S. Attorney Rollins, FBI SAC Bonavolonta, Holyoke PD Chief Pratt and Springfield PD Superintendent Clapprood made the announcement today. The investigation was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Western Massachusetts Gang Task Force. Valuable assistance was provided by the Massachusetts State Police’s Commonwealth Interstate Narcotics Reduction Enforcement Team (CINRET) and the Hampden District Attorney’s Office’s Strategic Action and Focused Enforcement (SAFE) Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil L. Desroches of Rollins’ Springfield Branch Unit is prosecuting the case. 

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

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

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Component(s): 
Updated March 10, 2022