Fifteen men, all but one from suburbs west of Boston, were arrested Thursday by federal agents on charges of participating in an illegal drug ring that was based in Natick and sold large numbers of oxycodone pills.
The arrests capped a four-month investigation that included tapping the phones of the suspects, all of whom were charged with conspiracy to distribute the painkiller oxycodone, said the office of the US attorney for Massachusetts, Carmen M. Ortiz.
The criminal complaint alleges that Michael Bourque, 42, of Natick, used his shipping company, DEX Corp., as a front for wholesale drug trafficking that started as early as February 2011 and continued through April. Bourque allegedly received drugs through various narcotic suppliers.
According to federal authorities, the 15 men illegally purchased, sold, or distributed wholesale amounts of oxycodone.
The complaint alleges that Mark Ouellette, 43, of Shirley, and Acton resident Sean Cotter, 41, distributed 700 pills to Bourque at the end of March. A search of Ouellette’s home found about 2,000 oxycodone pills, more than $30,000 in cash, and a loaded gun, Ortiz’s office said.
Authorities received court approval to wiretap conversations between the defendants over four months, the US attorney’s office said.
“With these arrests today, we hope to send a strong message that trafficking and distributing prescription pain medication will not be tolerated and we will utilize the full breadth of our law enforcement resources to bare,” John J. Arvanitis of the Drug Enforcement Administration said in a statement.
Also arrested were Waltham residents Robert Hagenaars, 37, Barry Goolst, 52, Phillip Goolst, 49, and Thomas Ehwa, 26; Natick residents Frank McGuire, 42, and Christopher Yancey, 41; Newton residents Brian Chisholm, 44, and Raymond Panaggio, 44; Michael Roy, 32, of Milford; Corey Assencoa, 43, of Hopkinton; Mark Newton, 27, of Hudson; and John Kinney, 29, of Woburn.
The charge of conspiracy to distribute carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a lifetime of supervised release, and a $1 million fine.
The case was investigated by agents of the DEA; FBI; Homeland Security; Internal Revenue Service; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and local and state police.