Lawrence Man Sentenced to 45 Years in Prison for Operating Major Fentanyl Trafficking Organization
Concord – United States Attorney Scott W. Murray announced that Sergio Martinez, 30, of Lawrence, Massachusetts, was sentenced to 45 years in federal prison for leading a continuing criminal enterprise and participating in a money laundering conspiracy based upon his role in operating a Lawrence-based fentanyl trafficking organization. Additionally, Martinez was ordered to forfeit $2,000,000 in cash, as well as three houses in Lawrence.
Martinez pleaded guilty on the sixth day of a jury trial. During the trial, which began on October 1, 2019, the government presented evidence that Martinez operated a fentanyl trafficking operation that employed numerous individuals to sell fentanyl to customers from various New England states, including New Hampshire. Testimony at trial showed that customers knew the Martinez organization by the name “Brian” and that most of the organization’s customers came from New Hampshire. Distributors knew to identify customers on the streets of Lawrence by their New Hampshire license plates.
Testimony at trial showed that the organization served three distinct sets of customers. The first group of customers, who ordered the smallest amounts of drugs, was served by various telephones (“small phones”) that were located in a specific residence and answered by dispatchers. This residence was referred to as “the base” and dispatchers staffed “the base” from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily. Dispatchers took orders and directed customers to meet various distributors throughout the Merrimack Valley area, mostly in Lawrence or Haverhill, Massachusetts, but sometimes in Salem, New Hampshire. These phones usually received hundreds of calls daily from customers placing fentanyl orders. Street-level distributors were provided with 200-gram bags of fentanyl, which they sold for $30 per gram, generating $6,000 per bag of fentanyl sold. Distributors testified at trial that they sometimes had lines of 10 to 15 customers, most with New Hampshire license plates, waiting for them on the street.
A second set of customers was serviced by the so-called “big phone.” The big phone was reserved for customers who typically purchased from ten grams to 200 grams of fentanyl at a time, quantities which the purchasers would then distribute themselves. The defendant and his brother Raulin Martinez answered this telephone, took orders, and sent these customers to meet a different set of distributors. They promised these customers better and faster service than they received if they called the small phones. These phones received between approximately 50 and 100 calls daily.
A third, much smaller set of customers, who ordered particularly large quantities of fentanyl (usually one kilogram or more at a time) called the defendant directly to place orders. The organization would deliver directly to these individuals by sending a distributor, often in a taxi, to deliver to these customers at or near their residences.
Trial testimony showed that Martinez managed numerous individuals including between five and ten runners working each day, people who staffed “the base” answering telephones, and people who mixed and packaged the drugs in milling operations he operated at different locations in Lawrence. The jury was provided with evidence showing that investigators seized over 12 kilograms of fentanyl from the Martinez organization during the investigation. During one telephone call intercepted over a court-authorized wiretap and played at trial, Martinez spoke to a man who identified himself as a fentanyl supplier located in Sinaloa, Mexico. Martinez told him, “what I look for is quality for when I prepare it and give it to people. Because I’m one of those people that’s moving a lot here. I move between 15, to 30, to 35 kilos a month.” In other intercepted telephone calls played at trial, Martinez acknowledged the dangerous nature of the drug he distributed, noting that “what we give out is poison.”
Evidence at trial showed that Martinez received substantial income from his business and that he sent some of this money to the Dominican Republic. Drug runners testified that they provided the defendant with between $30,000 and $35,000 per day based on aggregate drug sales. On one occasion, the defendant was stopped by the police while transporting $400,494 in cash that he intended to send to the Dominican Republic. This money was seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The plea agreement includes a forfeiture of $2,000,000 including funds in two bank accounts in the Dominican Republic in Martinez’s name.
Twenty four individuals have pleaded guilty and been sentenced in this conspiracy. Five additional individuals are awaiting sentencing. Three defendants remain fugitives. One defendant is awaiting trial.
In addition to these defendants, 13 New Hampshire-based individuals who obtained fentanyl from this organization have been charged with drug trafficking offenses. Twelve of those individuals have pleaded guilty and one is still awaiting trial.
“International fentanyl trafficking organizations have targeted New Hampshire as a profitable market for the sale of their deadly product,” said U.S. Attorney Murray. “The result has been disastrous for our citizens. Mr. Martinez ran a criminal enterprise that exploited the substance abuse proclivities of Granite Staters in order to obtain huge profits. In doing so, he enriched himself and funneled portions of the profits to parties outside of the United States. This 45-year sentence should send a strong message to fentanyl traffickers that those who choose to do business in New Hampshire will be held accountable for their conduct. I am grateful to the DEA and all of our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners whose hard work resulted in the successful prosecution of this high-level drug trafficker.”
“The State of New Hampshire is faced with a fentanyl crisis unlike ever before,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Boyle. “Those responsible for distributing lethal drugs like fentanyl to the citizens of New Hampshire need to be held accountable for their actions. Today’s significant sentence not only holds Mr. Martinez accountable for his crimes but serves as a warning to those traffickers who are coming from out of state to distribute this poison in order to profit and destroy people’s lives. This investigation demonstrates the strength and continued commitment of our local, state and federal law enforcement partners.”
“Today’s sentencing sends a strong message: The Diplomatic Security Service is committed to making sure that those who are responsible for trafficking in deadly drugs face consequences for their criminal actions,” said Brian Papanu, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Field Office of the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service. “Diplomatic Security’s strong relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force continues to be essential in the pursuit of justice.”
Agencies participating in this investigation are part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). OCDETF was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and is the keystone of the Department of Justice’s drug reduction strategy. Today, OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations, transnational criminal organizations, and money laundering organizations that present a significant threat to the public safety, economic, or national security of the United States.
The case was a collaborative investigation that involved the DEA; the New Hampshire State Police; the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office; the Nashua Police Department; the Massachusetts State Police; the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office; the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office; the Essex County District Attorney’s Office; the Internal Revenue Service; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; United States Customs and Border Protection Boston Field Office; the United States Marshals Service; the United States Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service; the Manchester Police Department; the Lisbon Police Department; the Littleton Police Department; the Seabrook Police Department; the Haverhill (MA) Police Department; the Methuen (MA) Police Department; the Lowell (MA) Police Department; and the Maine State Police.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Georgiana L. Konesky and Seth R. Aframe.