By Jill Harmacinski
CNHI News Service
BOSTON — Two Massachusetts men face federal charges for targeting and distributing fentanyl to veterans seeking drug treatment, authorities said.
Deiby Bladimil Casado Ruiz, 29, and Pedro Antonio Sanchez Bernabel, of no age, have been charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl and one count of distributing fentanyl. Casado Ruiz has also been charged with an additional count of distributing fentanyl, according to information provided by the Justice Department.
Casado Ruiz and Sanchez Bernabel were arrested on November 2. They first appeared in US District Court in Boston before US Magistrate Judith G. Dein and were held pending detention hearings scheduled for November 9.
Between July 27, 2022 and October 26, 2022, Casado Ruiz and Bernabel conspired to distribute over 40 grams of fentanyl in Bedford to veterans seeking treatment for a substance abuse disorder at Bedford Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford, Mass., according to the prosecution documents.
The head of the Boston Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation described the crimes as “absolutely appalling”.
“We believe they targeted veterans who valiantly defended our country’s freedoms and are now seeking treatment for their substance abuse disorder, and treated them with fentanyl, a deadly narcotic 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine,” Special Agent Joseph R. Bonavolonta said. FBI official, in a statement.
“This investigation clearly demonstrates that the serious consequences of the opioid crisis extend far beyond street-level sales, and the FBI’s determination to work closely with our law enforcement partners. law to do everything in our power to rid our communities of this deadly and destructive substance,” Bonavolonta said. said.
U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said her office is committed to finding the illegal opioid suppliers.
“Fentanyl continues to be the number one driver of overdose deaths in our Commonwealth and nationally. Last year alone, we lost over 2,000 people in Massachusetts to drug poisoning. The opioid crisis is real and growing. Individuals who seek to distribute fentanyl, especially those targeting vulnerable populations, pose a serious threat to our communities. We are committed to finding and prosecuting them. It’s a promise,” Rollins said, in the DOJ statement.
“Every day, veterans risk their lives to protect our country, our freedom and our civil liberties. These sacrifices often cost their families, loved ones and their mental and physical health dearly. One of the few benefits veterans receive is lifetime health care services at one of the VA’s 170 outpatient medical centers and clinics across the country. If a veteran has a substance use disorder or mental health issue, a veteran can provide lifesaving treatment and services. We allege that these two defendants conspired to sell fentanyl to veterans at or near the VA medical center/outpatient clinic in Bedford,” she said.
Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Field Division, said, “The DEA will continue to use all available resources to identify those contributing to this crisis in our communities. Today’s arrests serve as a wake-up call to traffickers fueling the opioid epidemic and addiction.
“Massachusetts is in the midst of a devastating opioid crisis as fentanyl deaths rise,” said
The charge of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and up to 40 years in prison, at least four years probation and a fine of up to $5 million.
The fentanyl distribution charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, at least three years of probation and a fine of up to $1 million.
Lawrence Police and the Bedford VA Medical Center Police Department assisted in the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick Callahan, Lauren Graber and Kelly Lawrence of Rollins’ healthcare fraud unit are prosecuting the case.