BOSTON – Thirteen individuals were charged today in connection with a Lawrence-based drug trafficking conspiracy involving fentanyl, cocaine, suboxone and counterfeit prescription pills containing methamphetamine.
According to court documents, the investigation, which began in August 2020, intercepted communications on numerous cellphones between leaders, members and drug suppliers of the Gangster Disciples street gang operating in the greater Lawrence area. The investigation revealed a large multi-object drug conspiracy centering around the Gangster Disciples in Lawrence, Haverhill and Methuen. According to the charging documents, the defendants actively distributed fentanyl, cocaine and suboxone with drug trafficking activities extending from Massachusetts into Maine and southern New Hampshire as well as into the Essex County Jail. It is also alleged that Justin Suriel and Steven Rios conspired to kidnap, hold captive and traumatize a victim in retaliation for the suspected theft of Rios’ dog.
The investigation also identified defendants as alleged suppliers of methamphetamine disguised as counterfeit Adderall and oxycodone pills. Today, investigators seized four gallon-sized bags of counterfeit Adderall pills containing methamphetamine, weighing approximately 9.67 pounds. An additional gallon-sized bag of counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl was also seized.
“These defendants allegedly trafficked drugs of all kinds, making money at the expense of addicts and dragging down our community,” said Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell. “Today’s arrests stop a poly-drug pipeline that supplied street-level dealing across New England. Local, state and federal law enforcement worked together to make this happen, and we are not stopping. To the drug traffickers, we say: you will be prosecuted and you will be brought to justice.”
“Today’s arrests targeted many of the key leaders, members, and associates of the Gangster Disciples in the Merrimack Valley who we believe have flooded our neighborhoods with their destructive poison and fueled the violence on city streets under the guise of defending their so-called turf,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “Our North Shore Gang Task Force has seized their profits and shut down their distribution networks, and we will not hesitate to use every tool we have to stop others like them from threatening the safety our communities.”
The following individuals were indicted on conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl, 500 grams or more of cocaine and suboxone:
Suriel and Rios were also charged with one count each of kidnapping conspiracy. Declet was also charged with distribution and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
Two additional defendants were charged by criminal complaint for their involvement in the Gangster Disciples’ trafficking operations. Yoel Mercedes, a/k/a “Capo,” 38, of Lawrence, was charged with distribution of 40 grams or more of fentanyl. Vando Gvozdarevic, 29, of Chelmsford, was charged with possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine.
The charge of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl, 500 grams or more of cocaine and suboxone provides for a sentence of at least five years and up to 40 years in prison, at least four years and up to a lifetime of supervised release and a fine of $5 million. The charge of possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine provides for a sentence of at least 10 years and up to life in prison, at least five years and up to a lifetime of supervised release and a fine of $10 million. The charge of kidnapping conspiracy provides for a sentence of up to a lifetime in prison, up to five years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting U.S. Attorney Mendell, FBI SAC Bonavolonta and Colonel Christopher S. Mason, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, made the announcement today. The investigation was led by the FBI North Shore Gang Task Force and the Massachusetts State Police. Valuable assistance was provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Field Division; Homeland Security Investigations in Boston; Maine Drug Enforcement Agency; and the Andover, Haverhill, Lawrence, Chelmsford and Brockton Police Departments. Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip C. Cheng, of Mendell’s Organized Crime & Gang Unit, is prosecuting the case.
This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
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