Two Lawrence Men Arrested for Conspiring to Distribute Fentanyl at Veterans Affairs Medical Center
Defendants allegedly targeted veterans seeking treatment for substance use disorder
BOSTON – Two Lawrence men have been arrested for allegedly distributing fentanyl and targeting veterans at the Bedford Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Deiby Bladimil Casado Ruiz and Pedro Antonio Sanchez Bernabel, both of Lawrence, were indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl and one count of distribution of fentanyl. Casado Ruiz was charged with an additional count of distribution of fentanyl. The defendants were arrested on Nov. 2, 2022 and, following an initial appearance yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein, were detained pending detention hearings scheduled for Nov. 9, 2022.
According to the charging document, between July 27, 2022 and Oct. 26, 2022 Casado Ruiz and Bernabel conspired to distribute more than 40 grams of fentanyl in Bedford. Specifically, it is alleged the defendants targeted veterans seeking treatment for substance use disorder at the Bedford Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
“Every day, veterans risk their lives to protect our country, our freedom and our civil liberties. These sacrifices often come at great expense to their families, loved ones, and mental and physical health. One of the few benefits veterans receive is life-long healthcare services at any of the 170 VA medical centers and outpatient clinics throughout the country. If a veteran has a substance use disorder or mental health issue, a VA can offer life-saving treatment and services. We allege that these two defendants conspired to sell fentanyl to veterans at or near the VA medical center/outpatient clinic in Bedford,” said United States Attorney Rollins. “Fentanyl continues to be the main driver of overdose deaths in our Commonwealth and nationwide. Last year alone, we lost over 2,000 people in Massachusetts to drug poisonings. The opioid crisis is real and growing. Individuals who seek to distribute fentanyl, especially those who target vulnerable populations, are a grave threat to our communities. We are committed to finding and prosecuting them. That is a promise.”
“Veterans seeking treatment for substance abuse are often at their most vulnerable. The VA Office of Inspector General is committed to ensuring VA medical centers are safe for veterans receiving care,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Algieri of the VA Office of Inspector General’s Northeast Field Office. “We thank the US Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners for their efforts in this joint investigation.”
“What these two men are accused of doing is absolutely appalling. We believe they targeted veterans who have valiantly defended our country’s freedoms and are now seeking treatment for their substance abuse disorder, and plied them with fentanyl, a deadly narcotic 50-100 times stronger than morphine,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “This investigation clearly demonstrates that the grave consequences of the opioid crisis extend far beyond street level dealing, and the FBI’s resolve to work closely with our law enforcement partners to do everything we can to rid our communities of this deadly and destructive substance.”
“Massachusetts is in the midst of a devastating opioid crisis as deaths from fentanyl climb,” said Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Field Division. “The DEA will continue to use every resource available to identify those who are contributing to this crisis across our communities. Today’s arrests serve as a warning to those traffickers who are fueling the opioid epidemic and addiction.”
The charge of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl provides for mandatory minimum sentence of five years and up to 40 years in prison, at least four years of supervised release and a fine of up to $5 million. The charge of distribution of fentanyl provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, at least three years 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 statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
U.S. Attorney Rollins, VA OIG SAC Algieri, FBI SAC and DEA SAC Boyle made the announcement today. Valuable assistance in the investigation was provided by the Bedford VA Medical Center Police Service and the Lawrence Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick Callahan, Lauren Graber and Kelly Lawrence of Rollins’ Health Care Fraud Unit are prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging document are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.