New Bedford Gym Owner Pleads Guilty to Heroin Trafficking
BOSTON – The owner of a New Bedford gym pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Boston in connection with a wide-ranging conspiracy that distributed heroin throughout Bristol County, Mass. and Providence, RI.
Sharik Mendes, 39, of New Bedford, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin. Mendes had been previously charged by criminal complaint in June 2016 with Tyson Depina and Eric Desousa, both of whom have pleaded not guilty and who have been indicted by a federal grand jury. U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock scheduled sentencing for January 11, 2017.
In 2015 and 2016, Mendes, the owner and operator of the HEART gym in New Bedford, was receiving large quantities of heroin from two suppliers based in Rhode Island. Mendes then distributed the heroin to lower-level distributors in the New Bedford area. In total, Mendes agreed to accept responsibility for conspiring to distribute between 600 and 700 grams of heroin.
The charging statute provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, a minimum of three years and up to a lifetime of supervised release and a fine of $1 million. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
This case was brought as part of the federal response to the growing opioid abuse epidemic in Massachusetts and other New England states. Heroin is highly addictive, and users can quickly develop a tolerance, prompting them to seek higher potencies and greater quantities of the narcotic. Between 2000 and 2014, opioid overdose deaths have more than tripled with a spike in recent years in Massachusetts.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Michael J. Ferguson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Boston Field Division; Fall River Police Chief Daniel S. Racine; and New Bedford Police Chief Joseph C. Cordeiro, made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric S. Rosen of Ortiz’s Narcotics and Money Laundering Unit.