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Press Release

Connecticut Man Sentenced to 120 Months in Prison Following Conviction for Drug Conspiracy Involving More Than 30 Kilograms of Heroin

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

The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont stated that on May 3, 2021, United States District Judge Christina Reiss sentenced Jose Fontanez, 33, to 120 months in prison following his guilty plea to a charge of conspiring to distribute in Vermont one kilogram or more of heroin, 400 grams or more of fentanyl, and 500 grams or more of cocaine between 2010 and November 26, 2018.

According to Court records, in November of 2018, an informant working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Vermont State Police Drug Task Force placed 11 recorded phone calls to Fontanez, also known as “Chiqui,” arranging the purchase of heroin.  The FBI Northern Connecticut Gang Task Force watched as Fontanez travelled from his stash house in Hartford, Connecticut to a planned meeting location in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where Fontanez was arrested by the FBI Western Massachusetts Gang Task Force.  At the time of his arrest, Fontanez was in possession of the heroin the informant had arranged to purchase.

After Fontanez’s arrest, the FBI executed a search warrant at Fontanez’s stash house.  Inside Fontanez’s stash house, agents seized a mixture of heroin and fentanyl as well as packaging materials identical to those possessed by Fontanez at the time of his arrest.  Subsequent investigation revealed that Fontanez used his Hartford, Connecticut stash house to process, package, and store heroin, and that Fontanez utilized co-conspirators in Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, and elsewhere to acquire, package, and re-distribute controlled substances. 

At sentencing, Judge Reiss found that Fontanez’s criminal conduct involved over 30 kilograms of heroin; that he maintained a premises for the purpose of manufacturing and distributing a controlled substance; that he committed the offense as part of a pattern of criminal conduct engaged in as a livelihood; and that he was a manager or supervisor of criminal activity involving five or more participants.  Judge Reiss also noted that Fontanez had been seen with over $250,000 on multiple occasions, and that Fontanez had intentionally utilized fentanyl with the purpose of increasing his drug sales.  

Acting United States Attorney Jonathan Ophardt praised the collaborative, multi-state investigative effort that resulted in this successful prosecution.  He added: “Drugs like heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine are illegal because they are dangerous.  The consumption of these illicit substances rips at the fabric of our communities, results in the deterioration of our families, and impacts all aspects of our lives.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work diligently with our law enforcement partners to hold drug traffickers like Fontanez accountable for the damage inflicted by their greed.  I commend the investigative efforts of the FBI in Vermont and the Vermont State Police Drug Task Force, as well as the FBI Northern Connecticut Gang Task Force and the FBI Western Massachusetts Gang Task Force.  I also thank the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Hartford Regional Office and the New Hampshire State Police for their assistance.”

“Mr. Fontanez is one of dozens of deplorable individuals who spent years running a disturbing amount of dangerous drugs through our Vermont communities,” said Thomas F. Relford, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Albany Field Office.  “Vermont residents should feel safer knowing he’ll spend the next decade behind bars.  Today’s sentence is indicative of the success that can be attained when agencies combine resources to remove violent drug distributors from the streets.  Our office is grateful for the continued partnership from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Vermont State Police, New Hampshire State Police, DEA, and our colleagues in Massachusetts and Connecticut.  We remain committed to working together to attack these dealers and remove violent criminals from our communities.” 

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Nate Burris and Paul Van de Graaf.  Fontanez was represented by Attorney Brooks G. McArthur of Jarvis, Williams & McArthur.

Updated May 4, 2021

Drug Trafficking