For Immediate Release - May 18, 2017

Lawrence Man Pleads Guilty, Sentenced to Prison in Connection With Running a Fentanyl Trafficking Operation

Sentenced to Four and a Half Years in State Prison

SALEM – A Lawrence man has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to four and a half years in state prison in connection with running a fentanyl trafficking operation, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.

Milciades Castillo-Franco (a.k.a. Jose Nogue Resto a.k.a. Tony), age 43, pleaded guilty today in Salem Superior Court to the charges of Trafficking Fentanyl (four counts), Conspiracy to Violate the Controlled Substance Act (one count) and Furnishing a False Name at Arrest (one count).

Following the plea, Judge Thomas Dreschler sentenced him to serve four and a half years to four and a half years and a day in state prison followed by two years of probation. The AG’s Office recommended a sentence of 12 to 15 years in state prison followed by five years of probation.

“As of this year, fentanyl is now present in the majority of deadly overdoses in our state,” said AG Healey. “That is why this week, I announced a new Fentanyl Strike Force. Through this initiative, we will partner with our local, state and federal law enforcement to dismantle drug networks that are trafficking fentanyl into our communities.”

On Tuesday, in her address to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, AG Healey announced that her office is committing a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to a new Fentanyl Strike Force. In partnership with the Massachusetts State Police, the task force will target heroin and fentanyl traffickers and dismantle their distribution networks across Massachusetts. The funds will expand the AG’s Office’s own drug enforcement work – which has increased sixfold since 2015 – and to build enhanced partnerships with federal, state, and local law enforcement. 

Following an investigation into a suspected drug trafficking network that began in February 2016, Castillo-Franco and Regla Santana, (a.k.a. Miguel Carrasquillo), age 49, also of Lawrence, were arrested April 20 2016 in a joint operation with State Police assigned to the AG’s Office and the Transportation Drug Unit (TDU), with assistance from the New England High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (NEHIDTA) and the Lawrence Police Department. State Police assigned to the AG’s Office and the TDU also arrested Antonio Rivera, age 48, of Lawrence, in September in Lawrence with assistance from Lawrence Police and the NEHIDTA. 

Authorities executed a search warrant for a Lawrence house where the defendants were selling the drugs. Authorities seized approximately 82 grams of fentanyl, seven pounds of narcotic mixing cut and materials known to be associated with drug packaging and distribution.

Santana and Rivera pleaded guilty to the charges in February 2017 and both were sentenced to serve three to four years in state prison. Rivera was sentenced to serve two years of probation following the committed sentence. The AG’s Office recommended a sentence of eight to nine years in state prison, followed by five years of probation for Santana and a sentence of nine to ten years followed by five years of probation for Rivera. Santana and Rivera’s convictions were the first secured by the AG’s Office under the new law criminalizing the trafficking of fentanyl.

An Essex County Grand Jury indicted the three defendants on fentanyl trafficking charges in August 2016.

Massachusetts law enforcement has seen a significant increase in the presence of fentanyl, especially in drug overdoses and deaths.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health estimates that 2,069 people – the highest number ever recorded in the state and a 15 percent increase year-over-year – died from opioid overdoses in 2016. The number of deaths from opioid overdoses involving fentanyl continued to climb last year, with more than 60 percent of the fatal overdoses last year involving the lethal drug. Essex County is one of the counties in the state with the highest rate of overdoses.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin. Drug traffickers frequently mix the drug with heroin, without the knowledge of the buyer. It can be deadly in even low doses.

Legislation to criminalize the trafficking of fentanyl went into effect in February 2016. Prior to the law going into effect, drug traffickers could only be charged with the lesser crimes of manufacturing, distributing or possessing fentanyl, regardless of the quantity of the drug they were caught with.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Megan McLaughlin of AG Healey’s Enterprise, Major and Cyber Crimes Division, with assistance from State Police assigned to the AG’s Office, the Massachusetts State Police Transportation Drug Unit (TDU), the New England High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (NEHIDTA), the Lawrence Police Department and the AG’s Digital Evidence Lab.