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Justice News

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

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Leader of Lawrence-Based Fentanyl and Heroin Trafficking Organization Pleads Guilty

Defendant admitted to being deported four times

BOSTON – The former leader of a Lawrence-based opioid trafficking organization pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Boston to fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine conspiracy.

Santo Ramon Gonzalez Nival, 40, a Dominican national formerly residing in Lawrence, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl and one count of illegal reentry of a deported alien. U.S. District Court Judge Denise J. Casper scheduled sentencing for Sept. 5, 2018. Nival has been detained since his arrest in May 2017.

After a year-long investigation aimed at attacking the fentanyl and heroin crisis in Lawrence and surrounding areas, federal, state and local law enforcement conducted a drug sweep to dismantle two Lawrence-based drug trafficking organizations, one allegedly run by Juan Anibal Patrone, and the other led by Gonzalez Nival, who was a source of supply for Patrone. 

During the course of the investigation, over 500 grams of fentanyl were seized in connection with the Gonzalez Nival organization. During a wiretap, law enforcement intercepted Gonzalez Nival talking to one of his suppliers, Santo Ramon Nivar, about a “blue one” - believed to be fentanyl - that “was killing people.” Gonzalez Nival discussed wanting more of that fentanyl because his customers liked the strength, and it could be cut multiple times, which meant more profit for him.

At the time of his arrest, Gonzalez Nival was illegally in the United States, having reentered after being deported most recently on May 19, 2009. During the investigation, Gonzalez Nival fled after being stopped by police when they took his false identification card to run it. In a subsequent intercepted call, Gonzalez Nival admitted to having been deported from the United States four times previously, and explained that he ran to avoid detectives who might fingerprint him.

In total, Gonzalez and nine members of his organization were arrested in May 2017, seven of whom have pleaded guilty: two sources of supply, Robert Frett Sierra and Santo Ramon Nivar; two couriers, Geronimo Confessor Gonzalez Nivar and Ruddy Rafael Soto Lara; and three individuals who purchased significant quantities of drugs for redistribution, Carlos Hernandez, Rory Connolly, and Diosmary Burgos. The remaining two members of Gonzalez Nival’s organization are scheduled to begin trial on June 11, 2018, Julio Baez Gonzalez, his alleged drug preparer, and Bernaldo Rosario Santiago, one of his alleged redistributors.

Patrone has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to stand trial in October 2018. The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 400 grams of fentanyl provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and no greater than life in prison, a minimum of five years and up to a lifetime of supervised release, and a fine of up to $10 million. The charge of unlawful reentry provides for a sentence of no greater than two years in prison, one year of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000. 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; Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Division; and Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, made the announcement today. The Massachusetts State Police and the Andover, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, and Wilmington Police Departments assisted with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Winkler of Lelling’s Narcotics and Money Laundering Unit is prosecuting the cases.

Drug Trafficking
Updated June 7, 2018