Five Individuals Sentenced for Roles in Southern Vermont Drug Conspiracy
The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont stated that five individuals have been sentenced by Chief United States District Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford for their roles in a prolonged conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine base in Vermont. On June 19, 2019, Joaquin Diaz-Alicea, a.k.a. “J.J.,” of Springfield, Massachusetts, was sentenced to ten years in federal prison, to be followed by five years of federal supervised release. Previously, Andrew Cruz, a.k.a. “Tone,” of Springfield, Massachusetts, was sentenced to ten years in federal prison to be followed by four years of federal supervised release; Jonthony Maldonado, a.k.a. “Little Tone,” of Springfield, Massachusetts was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release; Steven Miller, of Vernon, Vermont, was sentenced to one year in federal prison, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release; and Laura Frankiewicz, of Brattleboro, Vermont, received a time-served sentence, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. A sixth defendant, Anthony Serrano, was also charged in the indictment prior to his death, which resulted from a reported gang-related shooting in Springfield, Massachusetts.
As described at the defendants’ sentencing hearings and in court records, between late 2014 and February of 2016, the defendants conspired to distribute large quantities of heroin and cocaine base in and around Brattleboro, Vermont. On November 18, 2014, Cruz and Serrano were stopped in a motor vehicle equipped with a “hide” containing 180 grams of cocaine base, 103 grams of powder cocaine, 30 Oxycodone pills, and a loaded Beretta 9mm handgun. Thereafter, between mid-2015 and early 2016, the Vermont Drug Task Force utilized confidential informants to conduct nine separate controlled purchases of heroin and cocaine base from the members of the conspiracy.
Serrano and Cruz were the leaders of the drug trafficking organization. Cruz’s criminal history included convictions for assault and battery, assault and battery on a police officer, and a 2018 federal conviction in the District of Massachusetts for distribution of cocaine base and possession with intent to distribute cocaine base. In that federal case, the FBI’s Western Massachusetts Gang Task Force was engaged in an investigation into the distribution of heroin, cocaine, cocaine base, and firearms from suspected members of the Latin Kings gang in Holyoke and Springfield. On two occasions Cruz sold an informant a total of 31 grams of cocaine base. Cruz received a three year sentence in federal court in Massachusetts, which will run concurrent to his 10 year sentence.
Diaz-Alicea was immediately subordinate to Cruz in the drug trafficking organization. Witnesses stated that both Cruz and Diaz-Alicea possessed firearms while selling drugs in Vermont. Diaz-Alicea’s criminal history includes four separate firearms-related convictions, as well as convictions for assault and battery, assault with a dangerous weapon (shotgun), malicious damage to a motor vehicle, threats, and assault and battery on a correctional guard. These offenses included an incident in which Diaz-Alicea fired a shotgun at a motor vehicle, and a separate incident in which he approached a vehicle and fired a handgun through the driver’s-side window causing a bullet to strike the driver of the vehicle. Diaz-Alicea has two pending cases in Massachusetts alleging domestic assault and battery and aggravated assault and battery, and a separate case alleging assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and discharging a firearm. In the latter of these cases, Diaz-Alicea is alleged to have shot an individual twice with a handgun over an alleged drug debt. Diaz-Alicea is presumed innocent of these pending Massachusetts charges.
Maldonado was the drug trafficking organization’s “apprentice.” In addition to selling heroin and cocaine base on behalf of the drug trafficking organization, Miller and Frankiewicz, provided Cruz, Diaz-Alicea, and Maldonado with housing in Vermont in exchange for heroin and cocaine base.
United States Attorney Christina E. Nolan commended the collaborative investigation led by the Vermont State Police Drug Task Force, with support from Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bellows Falls Police Department, stating: “The talent and diligence of the Vermont State Police drug unit, working closely with their federal and local law enforcement partners, led to the dismantling of a very significant drug pipeline from Springfield, Massachusetts to the Brattleboro area. Windham County suffered more overdose deaths than any other Vermont county last year. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to deploy federal enforcement resources to southeast Vermont to remove dangerous, for-profit drug traffickers from its communities and to reduce the supply of deadly drugs flowing up Interstate 91. Drug trafficking organizations like this one will continue to be top targets for federal prosecution and we will pursue serious sentences.”
The case was prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Nolan and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nate Burris. Cruz was represented by Attorney John Mabie. Diaz-Alicea was represented by Attorney Paul Volk. Maldonado was represented by Attorney Peter Langrock. Miller was represented by Attorney Michael Shklar. Frankiewicz was represented by Attorney Thomas Sherrer.