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Press Release

Drug Trafficker Enlisted Juvenile in Drug Trafficking Operation, Sentenced to 140 Months in Prison

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

Burlington, Vermont – The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont announced today that Daniel Ruiz, aka “P-Nut,” 35, of Agawam, Massachusetts was sentenced today to serve 140 months of imprisonment after his conviction for conspiracy to distribute heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine base. Chief United States District Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford also ordered Ruiz to serve a three-year term of supervised release after his incarceration.

According to court records, Ruiz was arrested on March 23, 2022, shortly after the execution of search warrants at the Highlander Motel in Rutland, Vermont. Ruiz fled out the bathroom window of Room 15 of the Motel, and was apprehended shortly thereafter. Inside of Room 15, law enforcement located approximately 37 grams of cocaine base, 168 bags of fentanyl, over $5,000 in cash, and a Glock 9mm handgun. Law enforcement’s investigation revealed Ruiz was a supervisor and manager of a drug trafficking operation that operated out of the Highlander Motel from approximately January 2022 until Ruiz’s arrest on March 23, 2022. Ruiz’s criminal conduct involved the trafficking of at least 200 grams of cocaine and 80 grams of fentanyl, with Ruiz making up to $1,000 a day in profits from the sale of controlled substances. One of the people Ruiz managed and supervised was his co-defendant, Joel Caquias Aviles, 21, who was sentenced on November 9, 2022 to serve 30 months in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Ruiz also managed and supervised the drug trafficking activities of a 17-year-old juvenile, whom Ruiz recruited into the group. Ruiz had the juvenile make deliveries of cocaine base and fentanyl to purchasing customers, paying the juvenile in both cash and marijuana. 

Ruiz has a prior federal conviction in the District of Massachusetts for conspiracy to distribute and distribution of cocaine base, as well as a conviction in Massachusetts state court for possession with intent to distribute heroin. These two convictions made Ruiz a career offender under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

United States Attorney Nikolas P. Kerest commended the collaborative investigatory efforts of the Rutland City Police Department, the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Vermont State Police, the Bennington Police Department, the Weathersfield Police Department, the Rutland County Sheriff’s Department, the Ludlow Police Department, the Rutland Town Police Department, Vermont Department of Corrections, and the Burlington Police Department.  

The government was represented by Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan A. Ophardt and John J. Boscia. Ruiz was represented by Assistant Federal Public Defender Mary Nerino, Esq. 

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results. For more information about Project Safe Neighborhoods, please visit


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Updated May 17, 2023

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Drug Trafficking