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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Four Individuals Arrested for Producing and Trafficking Fentanyl Pills

Defendants allegedly used high-volume pill presses capable of producing thousands of counterfeit pills that actually contained fentanyl each hour

BOSTON – Four defendants were arrested today and charged in connection with operating a prolific drug trafficking organization that allegedly supplied counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl to suppliers on the North Shore of Massachusetts. A fifth defendant currently in state custody was charged with firearm and drug offenses. It is alleged that the defendants possessed a pill press capable of generating up to 15,000 pills per hour, which they used to produce counterfeit Percocet pills, containing fentanyl.

Vincent Caruso, 26, a/k/a “Fatz” and “Big Boy,” and Ernest Johnson, 33, a/k/a “Yo Pesci,” both of Salem, were charged with one count of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl; one count of conspiracy to conduct financial transactions affecting interstate commerce involving the proceeds of dealing in a controlled substance; and one count of conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking conspiracy. Vincent Caruso was also charged with one count of conspiracy to possess a tableting machine to manufacture a controlled substance.

Laurie Caruso, 51, of Lynn, and Nicole Benton, 45, of Saugus, were with one count of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl and one count of conspiracy to conduct financial transactions affecting interstate commerce involving the proceeds of dealing in a controlled substance.

Cesar Rivera, 22, of Revere, was charged separately with one count of possessing controlled substances with intent to distribute and one count of conspiracy to possess and use a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Vincent Caruso, Johnson, Laurie Caruso and Benton were arrested this morning and will make initial appearances via zoom in federal court in Boston this afternoon.

According to the charging documents, Vincent Caruso, a self-admitted Crip gang member, operates a large drug trafficking organization with co-defendants Johnson, Laurie Caruso (Vincent’s mother) and Benton, among others, to sell counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl to street gangs for further distribution on the North Shore of Massachusetts.

Vincent Caruso allegedly possessed multiple pill presses, which can generate thousands of pills per hour, to produce counterfeit pills designed to resemble Percocet pills, but in fact contained fentanyl. According to the charging documents, a counterfeit fentanyl pill retails at prices between $10-$20, thereby generating millions of dollars in retails sales. It is alleged that Caruso possessed multiple pill presses, including one described as being capable of producing 15,000 pills per hour and weighing 1,000 pounds.

It is further alleged that Vincent Caruso and Johnson possessed and used firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking activities. Vincent Caruso and Johnson posted and messaged photos and videos using social media that depicted firearms (including an AR15), fentanyl pills, cash and high-end jewelry. In a number of videos, Johnson allegedly described his involvement in shootings, beatings and drug trafficking and identified people he believed to be a “rat” or a “snitch.”

In addition, it is alleged that Benton and Laurie Caruso conducted cash transactions in order to launder portions of the illegal proceeds of the drug trafficking operation by placing sports bets at a New Hampshire casino.

The charge of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl provides for a sentence of up to life in prison, at least five years and up to life of supervised release and a fine of up to $10 million. The charge of conspiracy to conduct financial transactions affecting interstate commerce involving the proceeds of dealing in a controlled substance provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $500,000. The charge of conspiring to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking conspiracy involving a machine gun provides for a sentence of up to life in prison, five years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of conspiracy to possess a tableting machine to manufacture a controlled substance provides for a sentence of up to four years in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Kelly D. Brady, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Boston Division; and Colonel Christopher Mason, Superintendent of the Massachusetts States Police made the announcement today. Assistance was provided by the Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk County District Attorneys’ Offices; Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk County Sheriffs’ Departments; Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Danvers, Everett, Lynn, Malden, Salem, Saugus, Somerville and Revere Police Departments; U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine; Maine Drug Enforcement Agency; Bolton (ME), Bangor (ME), Portland (ME) and Westbrook (ME) Police Departments; and Hancock County Sheriff’s Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip A. Mallard of Mendell’s Organized Crime and Gang Unit are prosecuting the case.

The operation was conducted by a multi-agency task force through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply. More information on the OCDETF program is available here: https://www.justice.gov/ocdetf/about-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.

Updated June 30, 2021