Leader of Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering Organization with Ties to Mexican Cartel Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison
BOSTON – A Weymouth man has been sentenced for his role in a drug trafficking conspiracy that distributed prodigious amounts of cocaine from Puerto Rico, which he and a co-conspirator obtained via the U.S. mail.
John Tavares, 36, was sentenced on Feb. 7, 2023 by U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin to 10 years in prison and eight years of supervised release. Tavares was also ordered to forfeit $91,940 in drug proceeds. In October 2019, Tavares pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine.
“Mr. Tavares was a significant wholesale cocaine supplier who cultivated a major drug pipeline that funneled more than $1 million worth of cocaine from Puerto Rico to Massachusetts,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “In addition, this dangerous drug trafficker kept firearms to protect his cocaine stash and illicit proceeds – putting the community at risk with the potentially lethal combination of drug distribution and deadly weapons. Thanks to the exceptional work by our state, local and federal partners, Mr. Tavares and his gun laden cocaine venture have been brought to a halt and communities across the South Shore are safer.”
“What we have here today is a perfect example of what happens when different law enforcement agencies pool their recourses and expertise to achieve a common goal…to protect American citizens from the many perils of illegal drugs. The safety and security of Postal Service employees and customers is the core mission of the Postal Inspection Service. It is our duty as postal inspectors to aggressively investigate those individuals who ship illicit drugs through the U.S. Mail. Make no mistake, we will find you and hold you accountable. I would like to thank our federal, state, and local partners for helping us achieve our goal to protect the nation’s mail system from criminal misuse,” said Darnell Edwards, Acting Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Boston Division.
“Tavares and his coconspirator are responsible for trafficking significant amounts of cocaine to the Massachusetts area. HSI is proud to work with our law enforcement partners to disrupt trafficking operations like this one and prevent dangerous drugs from reaching our communities,” said Matthew B. Millhollin, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations in New England.
“DEA is committed to investigating Drug Trafficking Organizations and individuals like Mr. Tavares who is responsible for distributing cocaine to the citizens of Massachusetts,” said Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Division. “This sentence not only holds Mr. Tavares accountable for his crimes but this should serve as a warning to those traffickers who are fueling the drug epidemic in order to profit and destroy the lives of others. We will continue to work with our local, state and federal partners to bring to justice anyone who distributes this poison. This investigation demonstrates the continued commitment we have to keeping our communities safe.”
Between March 2017 and August 2018, federal inspectors identified more than 40 suspicious parcels that had been sent through the mail from Puerto Rico to various addresses in Massachusetts including residences in Quincy, North Dartmouth, Weymouth and New Bedford. The suspicious parcels were often sent on the same day from Puerto Rico to two or more addresses in Massachusetts. During the investigation, two parcels were intercepted in the mail and approximately two kilograms of cocaine was found hidden in sealed coffee cans. Through surveillance, it was determined that Tavares and co-conspirator Cristina Lopez were receiving the majority of the parcels. It was also determined that Tavares and Lopez had flown regularly from Massachusetts to Puerto Rico for trips lasting only 30 to 72 hours, and that the parcels suspected of containing cocaine were then typically sent to Massachusetts within one to three days after their return. In total, Tavares and Lopez arranged for at least 44.9 kilograms of cocaine to be shipped from Puerto Rico to Massachusetts. After collecting the parcels, Tavares and Lopez prepared the cocaine for distribution.
Searches of residences used by Tavares and Lopez in Weymouth, North Dartmouth and Boston resulted in the seizures of more than three kilograms of cocaine, over $100,000, firearms, ammunition and various drug paraphernalia. Additionally, CDs containing photos taken from Lopez’s phone were seized which depicted Tavares posing in a bedroom with rifles, one of which was equipped with a silencer, as well as photos of Tavares with large stacks of cash.
In October 2019, Lopez pleaded guilty to her role in the conspiracy and was sentenced in June 2020 to six years in prison and three years of supervised release.
U.S. Attorney Rollins; USPIS Acting INC Edwards; HSI SAC Millhollin; DEA SAC Boyle; Colonel Christopher Mason, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police; Norfolk County District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey; Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn, III; and Bristol County Sheriff Paul Heroux made the announcement today. Assistance in the investigation was provided by the Quincy, Weymouth, Braintree, North Dartmouth and Boston Police Departments. Assistant U.S. Attorneys James E. Arnold and Nadine Pellegrini of Rollins’ Criminal Division prosecuted 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.