Violent Gang Member Convicted of Drug and Firearms Conspiracy Involving Six Shootings
BOSTON – The last remaining defendant in a multi-phase investigation targeting drug trafficking and gang violence in communities north of Boston was found guilty yesterday of operating a large-scale drug trafficking conspiracy that manufactured and distributed kilograms of fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine in Maine. The trial evidence also included proved his participation in six shootings. The defendant served as a supplier for multiple large-scale drug dealers in Maine and participated in the acquisition of over 40 firearms for gang members.
Armani Minier-Tejada, a/k/a “Shotz,” a/k/a “Gustavo,” 23, was convicted by a federal jury of one count of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and to possess with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl, 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine, cocaine, and other controlled substances; one count of conspiracy to use and carry a firearm during and in relation to, and possess a firearm in furtherance of, a drug trafficking crime; and one count of use and carrying, brandishing and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of, a drug trafficking crime.. U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton scheduled sentencing for Oct. 5, 2023. Based upon the charges for which he was convicted, Minier-Tejada faces a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 40 years in prison.
The investigation began in 2020 in direct response to an increasing number of shootings in communities north of Boston committed by street gangs whose violence is fueled by drug distribution. The investigation resulted in the arrest and charging of Minier-Tejada and his co-conspirators Shelby Kleffman, Jaiir Coleman and Christina Bernbaum in early 2021. All three of Minier-Tejada’s co-conspirators pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing.
Minier-Tejada was a member of a street gang known as the Tiny Rascal Gangsters (TRG), one of the largest and most violent criminal street gangs in the country that operates on a decentralized structure via local groups or “sets.” TRG is involved in street-level distribution of powdered cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy and methamphetamine and members are known for their involvement in gun violence, including drive-by shootings of residences of rival gang members.
The government introduced evidence at at trial that Minier-Tejada and his co-conspirators participated in a long-running conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess large quantities of fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine in Boston, the North Shore and Bangor, Maine. At trial, the government introduced evidence that Minier-Tejada served as the supplier for multiple large-scale drug dealers in Maine and, in total, he and his co-conspirators were responsible for trafficking more than 10 kilograms each of fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine into Maine.
Minier-Tejada and his coconspirators produced numerous videos and images in which they were depicted brandishing and holding firearms, including multiple machine guns. Evidence was introduced at trial that in 2019 and 2020, Minier-Tejada and co-conspirator Coleman committed six shootings in Boston and surrounding communities in furtherance of the drug conspiracy. One of the shootings, which took place in Cambridge in July 2020, was in response to a video being live-streamed from a parking lot accusing Minier-Tejada and Coleman of cooperating with law enforcement. Minier-Tejada and Coleman travelled to the streaming location with two firearms – including a machine gun – and together fired at least 30 rounds into a large crowd of people gathered in the parking lot.
Additionally, evidence was introduced that the drug conspiracy of which Minier-Tejada was a leaderacquired over 40 firearms and multiple “selector switches” for TRG members. “Selector switches,” or auto sears, are aftermarket parts that convert a semi-automatic firearm into a machine gun.
“The highest calling for the Department of Justice is to keep our communities safe. This case should send a clear and unequivocal message to those who chose to pump fentanyl and other deadly drugs into our streets and brazenly brandish highly dangerous firearms to protect their trade – you will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We will spare no resources working with our federal, state and local partners to make sure that people who terrorize their communities and who show a callous disregard for human life will spend decades behind bars,” said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy.
“Armani Minier-Tejada stands convicted of numerous shootings committed in furtherance of his large-scale drug trafficking ring that polluted the streets of Maine with everything from deadly fentanyl to cocaine, crack cocaine & methamphetamine,” said Christopher DiMenna, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division. “The FBI’s North Shore Gang Task Force will continue to work diligently to remove violent criminals from our communities, and we thank the jury for their swift verdict in this case.”
“DEA is committed to investigating and dismantling violent poly drug trafficking organizations like this operating in Massachusetts led by Armani Minier-Tejada,” said Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Field Office. “As we all know, drug trafficking in our communities, along with the gun and physical violence that often accompanies it, is a serious threat to public safety. This is unacceptable and we will not allow it to happen. DEA and its local, state and federal partners are dedicated to bringing to justice those that commit these crimes. This verdict not only holds Mr. Minier-Tejada accountable for his crimes but serves as a warning to those traffickers who are contributing to the drug crisis in Massachusetts.”
“ATF’s deepest gratitude goes out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for pursuing this investigation, as well as the state and local partners who diligent assisted with this investigation, which included a cavalier act of shooting a machine gun into an open public area. Our community can rest tonight, knowing our streets are safer with Armani Minier-Tejada being found guilty for his crimes,” said James M. Ferguson, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, Boston Field Division.
“I want to express my sincere gratitude to our officers, and law enforcement partners, who worked collaboratively to bring justice following a very concerning series of events in Cambridge and across our region,” said Cambridge Police Commissioner Christine Elow. “This conviction is yet another example of how working together can make our streets and communities safer. It also demonstrates the collective action we all are deeply committed to taking, particularly when addressing important issues like gun violence and drug trafficking that can cause great harm and trauma to our communities.”
“The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency continues to coordinate our enforcement efforts with our local, State and Federal partners to combat the lethal drug epidemic in Maine. This case underscores how dangerous these criminal drug traffickers are and how vital it is to shut down these criminal enterprises. We want to recognize and thank the many law enforcement professionals who participated in complex case and the successful prosecution,” said Rick Desjardins, Director of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.
Minier-Tejeda is the 18th and final federal defendant to be convicted in this case. Over the past three years, the investigation has resulted in the arrest, conviction and imprisonment of multiple drug traffickers and violent offenders in the greater Boston area, including Vincent Caruso, a/k/a “Fatz;” his mother Laurie Caruso and co-conspirator Ernest Johnson, a/k/a “Yo Pesci;” Malden-based drug trafficker Phillips Charles, a/k/a “Phon C;” and large-scale methamphetamine supplier and TRG leader David Oth, a/k/a “Baby Bouncer.”
The charge of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and to possess with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl, 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine, cocaine, and other controlled substances, provides for a sentence of at least 10 years and up to life in prison, at least 10 years and up to life of supervised release and a fine of up to $10 million. The charge of conspiracy to use and carry a firearm during and in relation to, and possess a firearm in furtherance of, a drug trafficking crime provides for a sentence of up to life in prison because a machine gun was involved in the offense, five years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge use and carrying, brandishing and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of, a drug trafficking crime provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years and up to life to be served consecutively to the penalty for the underlying drug trafficking crime, five years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. As such, based on the crimes for which Minier-Tejada was convicted, he faces a mandatory 40 years in federal prison. Sentences are imposed by a federal district judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
U.S. Attorney Levy, FBI SAC DiMenna, DEA SAC Boyle, ATF SAC Ferguson, Commissioner Elow and MDEA Director Desjardins made the announcement today. Valuable assistance in the investigation was provided by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine; Maine Drug Enforcement Agency; Middlesex and Suffolk County District Attorney’s Offices; Essex and Hancock (Maine) County Sheriff’s Department; and the Chelsea, Everett, Lynn, Malden, Salem, Somerville, Bangor (Maine), Portland (Maine) and Westbrook (Maine) Police Departments. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Philip A. Mallard and Kaitlin R. O’Donnell of Levy’s Organized Crime and Gang Unit are prosecuting the case.
This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
UPDATE: This press release was amended on July 25, 2023.