The US attorney’s office in New Hampshire said Wednesday that 45 people had been charged for allegedly conspiring to traffic fentanyl in a drug-dealing organization led by two brothers from Lawrence, Mass.
Police charged 28-year-old Sergio Martinez and 36-year-old Raulin Martinez — along with 27 other Massachusetts residents and 15 New Hampshire residents — with participating in a conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, a statement from the New Hampshire Department of Justice’s office said. Officials declined to release the name or hometown of the 45th person who was charged.
The Massachusetts defendants were from Lawrence, Lowell, Methuen, and Haverhill.
“Fentanyl is responsible for the lion’s share of overdose deaths in the Granite State,” New Hampshire US Attorney Scott Murray said in the statement. “The law enforcement community in New England is united in the effort to end the opioid crisis.”
The Martinez brothers allegedly worked out of a “base” in Lawrence that was staffed by dispatchers who took drug orders over several “customer phones.” The dispatchers would then arrange meetings between customers and distributors located throughout the Merrimack Valley, according to the statement.
The brothers also allegedly employed individuals to make sure distributors were consistently supplied with 200-gram bags of fentanyl and to collect money.
The defendants could face anything from 10 years to life in prison, as well as a fine of up to $10 million, the statement said.
“The conspiracy was extensive and organized,” the statement said. “The Martinez brothers allegedly used a vast network of dispatchers and distributors to serve customers large and small with knowledge that a substantial amount of drugs were going to New Hampshire.”
Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies worked together on a yearlong investigation of this case, the statement said. The 45 defendants were indicted in two groups earlier this month. Nine of them are still at large.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions thanked the department for their work and emphasized the need to prioritize the nation’s opioid crisis.
“The quantities of fentanyl that were allegedly trafficked in this case are shocking,” Sessions said in the statement. “We will prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law and continue to take dangerous drugs — and drug dealers — off of our streets so that every American can be safe in their community.”
Fentanyl is an ultrapowerful opioid that is often mixed with heroin. Officials say it is playing an increasingly deadly role in the opioid overdose crisis.