Two Individuals From Lawrence and Haverhill Indicted in Connection with Trafficking Fentanyl
SALEM – A Lawrence man and a Haverhill man have been indicted in connection with allegedly running a fentanyl trafficking operation, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
Francis Leroy Fernandez, 34, of Haverhill, and Hector Ocasio, age 28, of Lawrence were indicted Thursday by an Essex County Grand Jury on the charges of Trafficking Fentanyl (four counts each) and Conspiracy (one count each). They will be arraigned on the charges at a later date in Essex Superior Court.
“The opioid epidemic is killing five people a day in Massachusetts and these individuals were allegedly bringing the lethal opioid fentanyl onto the streets of Haverhill,” said AG Healey. “My office is committed to tackling this epidemic on all fronts including working with our partners in law enforcement to disrupt these dangerous drug trafficking networks. This case is another example of our work with local and state law enforcement to keep fentanyl out of our communities.”
In January 2017, authorities began an investigation into an alleged drug trafficking operation they believed was responsible for distributing drugs in Haverhill.
Fernandez and Ocasio were arrested in Haverhill in February 2017 in a joint operation involving Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Attorney General’s Office, the Massachusetts State Police Transportation Drug Unit (TDU), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Haverhill Police Department.
Authorities allege that Ocasio was supplying Fernandez with fentanyl and Fernandez in turn was selling the drug on the streets of Haverhill. Authorities arrested the two defendants after observing them participate in multiple sales of a total of approximately 150 grams of fentanyl in Haverhill.
Massachusetts law enforcement has seen a significant increase in the presence of fentanyl, especially in drug overdoses and deaths. 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.
AG Healey recently 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.
This investigation is ongoing. These charges are allegations and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
These charges area allegations and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Lynn Brennan with assistance from Assistant Attorney General Cesar Vega, both 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 Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Haverhill Police Department and the AG’s Digital Evidence Lab.