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Press Release

15 Defendants Indicted in Connection With Lawrence-Based Drug Trafficking Operation

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Hampshire

CONCORD – 15 defendants have been indicted in connection with a Lawrence-based drug trafficking enterprise, U.S. Attorney Jane E. Young announces. 

Over the past day and a half, law enforcement arrested nine of these defendants on conspiracy to distribute controlled substances charges, namely fentanyl and cocaine, while two others were in state custody, serving prison sentences in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

The defendants are scheduled to appear in federal court at various times this week.

The following defendants have been indicted in connection with these charges:

  1. Melvin Villar-Lugo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts.
  2. Felix Manuel Mejia-Gonzalez, 32, of Lawrence, Massachusetts.
  3. Yonathan Elias Baez-Santos, 22, of Methuen, Massachusetts.  Baez-Santos is in custody.
  4. Elaine Soto-Villar, 25, of Methuen, Massachusetts.  Soto-Villar is in custody, serving a Massachusetts state prison sentence for a felony drug conviction.    
  5. Candido Armando Diaz-Fernandez, 30, Dedham, Massachusetts.  Diaz-Fernandez is in custody.
  6. Julio Rafael Mejia-Baez, 23, of Boston, Massachusetts.  Mejia-Baez is in custody.
  7. Alexander Lechappelle, 26, of Lawrence, Massachusetts.
  8. Aaron Loew, 44, of Littleton, New Hampshire.  Loew is in custody.
  9. Benjamin Conkright, 28, of Whitefield, New Hampshire.  Conkright is in custody.
  10. Johnnie Boynton, 51, of Littleton, New Hampshire.  Boynton is in custody. 
  11. Anthony Monbleau, 32, of Brookline, New Hampshire.  Monbleau is in custody.
  12. Erika Barlow, 32, of Nashua, New Hampshire.  Barlow is in custody. 
  13. Cody Stanford, 29, of Pembroke, New Hampshire.  Stanford is in custody, serving a New Hampshire state prison sentence for a felony drug conviction.
  14. Dylan Painter, 26, of Nashua, New Hampshire.  Painter is in custody.
  15. Benjamin Bryant, 33, of Manchester, New Hampshire.  Bryant died on September 16, 2023, three days after the indictment was issued by the Grand Jury.                                                                                                                                                            

According to the court documents, the alleged leader of the drug trafficking enterprise used a social media messaging application and other means to coordinate narcotic transactions with customers in New Hampshire via “runners” in Massachusetts, from October 2021 through August 2023.  During the investigation, law enforcement seized more than one kilogram of fentanyl.  The investigation also involved a review of pertinent text messages over the social media account managed by the drug trafficking enterprise, which showed a total of more than 14 kilograms of fentanyl negotiated with various large-scale drug dealers in New Hampshire and a gun-for-drug trade.

The charge of conspiracy to distribute or possess with intent to distribute controlled substances provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.  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.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, Manchester District Office Group 2, led the investigation. Valuable assistance was provided by the Nashua Police Department, the Salem Police Department, the New Hampshire State Police, the Whitefield Police Department, the Littleton Police Department, the Methuen Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police and the Lawrence Police Department.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cesar Vega and Jarad Hodes are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. Each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.


Updated October 5, 2023

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 2023-156