October 08, 2019
Contact: SA Timothy Desmond
Phone Number: (617) 557-2100
Lawrence man faces 45 years in prison after pleading guilty to operating major fentanyl trafficking organization
CONCORD, NH – DEA New England Division Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Boyle and United States Attorney Scott W. Murray announced that Sergio Martinez, 29, of Lawrence, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to leading a continuing criminal enterprise and participating in a money laundering conspiracy based upon his role in operating a Lawrence-based fentanyl trafficking organization. The plea agreement, if accepted by the judge at sentencing, would require Martinez to serve a 45-year prison sentence and forfeit $2,000,000 in cash, as well as three houses in Lawrence.
The guilty plea came 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 10 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 DEA.
The plea agreement includes a forfeiture of $2,000,000 including funds in two bank accounts in the Dominican Republic in Martinez’s name. Martinez is scheduled to be sentenced on January 28, 2020.
A total of 34 individuals were charged with participating in this conspiracy. Martinez is the last of various co-conspirators to plead guilty. The following individuals previously pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing:
- Miguel Alvarez, 38, of Haverhill, MA, pled guilty on January 31, 2019. His sentencing is scheduled for December 19, 2019;
- Eduard Amparo, 47, of Lawrence, MA, pled guilty on August 29, 2019. His sentencing is scheduled for December 16 2019;
- Edward Brailey Delacruz, 25, of Methuen, MA, pled guilty on June 24, 2019. His sentencing is scheduled for December 16, 2019;
- Edward Brito, 32, of Lawrence, MA, pled guilty on July 10, 2019. His sentencing is scheduled for November 4, 2019;
- Julio Colon, 25, of Lawrence, MA pled guilty on September 30, 2019. His sentencing is scheduled for January 28, 2020.
- Luz DeJesus, 34, of Lawrence, MA, pled guilty on January 31, 2019. Her sentencing is scheduled for November 15, 2019;
- Juan Dimel Gil Castillo, 25, of Lawrence, MA, pled guilty on February 6, 2019. His sentencing is scheduled for November 27, 2019;
- Ramon Gil Huma, 26, of Lawrence, MA, pled guilty on March 11, 2019. His sentencing is scheduled for November 12, 2019;
- Steven Lessard, 31, of Lowell, MA pled guilty on September 30, 2019. His sentencing is scheduled for January 28, 2020;
- Henry Marte, 22, of Lawrence, MA, pled guilty on January 25, 2019. His sentencing is scheduled for November 4, 2019;
- Raulin Martinez, 37, of Lawrence, MA, pled guilty on December 7, 2018. His sentencing is scheduled for November 29, 2019;
- Fernand Miranda, 24, of Haverhill, MA, pled guilty on September 16, 2019. His sentencing is scheduled for January 2, 2020.
- Jared Ortega-Peguero, 26, of Lawrence, MA, pled guilty on December 6, 2018. His sentencing is scheduled for December 19, 2019;
- Suhey Perez, 40, of Lawrence, MA, pled guilty on May 2, 2019. Her sentencing is scheduled for November 18, 2019;
- Luz Perez DeMartinez, 27, of Lawrence, MA, pled guilty on February 12, 2019. Her sentencing is scheduled for November 19, 2019;
- Wagner Pimentel, 29, of Lawrence, MA, pled guilty on March 15, 2019. His sentencing is scheduled for November 19, 2019;
- Luis Angel Polanco Huma, 23, of Lawrence, MA, pled guilty on August 14, 2019. His sentencing is scheduled for November 27, 2019.
- Jorge Rodriguez, 22, of Methuen, MA, pled guilty on February 28, 2019. His sentencing is scheduled for November 15, 2019;
- Luis Antonio Salomon Polanco, 21, of Lawrence, MA, pled guilty on March 11, 2019. His sentencing is scheduled for November 18, 2019;
- Juan Rafael Tejada-Jimenez, 39, of Lawrence, MA, pled guilty on November 29, 2018. His sentencing is scheduled for November 22, 2019.
In addition to the defendants listed above, nine other defendants have pleaded guilty and already have been sentenced. Four defendants remain fugitives.
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.
“DEA is committed to investigating and dismantling large scale drug trafficking organizations like this one operating in Lawrence, MA led by Mr. Martinez,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Boyle. “Fentanyl distribution destroys people’s lives and wreaks havoc in our communities. DEA and our law enforcement partners will aggressively pursue any individual or organization that distributes this poison.”
“The evidence in this case demonstrates that Lawrence-based fentanyl traffickers have made huge profits from pumping large quantities of deadly fentanyl into New Hampshire,” said U.S. Attorney Murray. “Mr. Martinez ran a sophisticated marketing operation that served as a conduit between the Mexican drug cartels and customers in Northern New England. This was a complex case in which the entire law enforcement community worked together to bring high-level fentanyl traffickers to justice. The end result should serve as a warning to those who choose to sell fentanyl in the Granite State.”
This investigation was conducted by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations.
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; 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.