Three Plead Guilty to Drug Trafficking in Southeastern Mass.
BOSTON – Three Bristol County based drug-dealers pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Boston this week in connection with operating a drug trafficking ring in southeastern Massachusetts.
Luis Lopez, a/k/a “Juan Gonzalez,” 42, of Tiverton, RI and Fall River, Mass. pleaded guilty on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016, to conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, conspiracy to distribute heroin and fentanyl, possession of fentanyl and acetylfentanyl with the intent to distribute and laundering of monetary instruments. U.S. District Court Senior Judge Rya W. Zobel took the plea under advisement until sentencing, set for Jan. 31, 2017.
From 2014 to 2016, Lopez imported, at a minimum, 50 to100 kilograms of cocaine from Puerto Rico to Massachusetts, and distributed it in New Bedford and Fall River with co-conspirators Chindy Diaz, Israel Santiago, and others. Lopez also conspired with others to distribute heroin, fentanyl and acetylfentanyl. Lopez admitted that a kilogram of a fentanyl/acetylfentanyl mix that was found at a drug stash house in June belonged to him. Lopez also laundered drug proceeds through Hillside Auto, a used car business he purchased in Fall River in the name of a relative.
If the Court accepts the plea agreement, Lopez will be sentenced to 15 years in prison, five years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a money judgement of $2 million and forfeit three properties valued at approximately $1.2 million and numerous vehicles and motorcycles owned by Lopez and Hillside Auto.
Israel Santiago, a/k/a “Reysito,” 39, of Fall River also pleaded guilty on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016, to conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Judge Zobel took the plea under advisement and scheduled sentencing for Jan. 31, 2017.
In June 2016, Santiago attempted to ship a package containing one kilogram of cocaine to 24/7 Fitness in New Bedford. Once the package arrived, Santiago was to provide the cocaine to Lopez; however, unbeknownst to Lopez and Santiago, the package had been seized and opened by investigators, who discovered the cocaine. Due to the ongoing investigation, Santiago and Lopez were not arrested at that time, but were arrested a few weeks later.
Chindy Diaz, 38, of New Bedford, pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. Judge Zobel took the plea under advisement and scheduled sentencing for Jan. 26, 2017.
Diaz helped Lopez obtain packages of cocaine from Puerto Rico. Specifically, Diaz had cocaine shipped to her home, as well as the homes of her associates. When the cocaine arrived in the mail from Puerto Rico, Diaz would bring it to Lopez at his residence in Fall River. In addition, Diaz helped coordinate the shipment of drug proceeds back to Puerto Rico.
The charge of conspiracy to distribute cocaine provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years to life of supervised release and a fine of up to $1 million. The charge of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine provides a sentence of no greater than life in prison, five years to life of supervised release and a fine of $100,000. 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.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Bristol County District Thomas M. Quinn; Michael J. Ferguson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Boston Field Division; Joel P. Garland, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston; Shelly Binkowski, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Fall River Police Acting Chief Albert Dupere; New Bedford Police Chief Joseph C. Cordeiro; Fairhaven Police Chief Michael Myers; and Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson, made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen of Ortiz’s Narcotics and Money Laundering Unit is prosecuting the cases.