BOSTON – Thirteen people, the majority from Lawrence, Methuen and Haverhill, were charged as part of a Lawrence-based drug ring, federal authorities announced. 

Through an investigation originally launched in May 2018, authorities learned the 13 individuals were involved in distributing and selling fentanyl and cocaine across the Merrimack Valley, according to details released by the Department of Justice. 

On Wednesday, agents seized roughly $74,000 cash and approximately 4 kilograms of suspected fentanyl after executing search warrants across various locations in Billerica, Methuen, Lawrence, and Ayden, N.C., authorities said. 

During the probe, investigators "intercepted communications on numerous cellphones" revealing the 13 individuals were actively distributing fentanyl and cocaine and that their drug trafficking activities extended throughout Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire and Maine, according to the DOJ. 

The following people were charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 400 grams of more of fentanyl and cocaine:

- Anny Cruz, 37, of Lawrence;

- Jorge Luis Diaz, also known as Cosita, 33, of Ayden, N.C.;

- Oliver Alexander Perez Soto, also known as Demonio, 45, of Lawrence;

- Joel Saldana, also known as Flaco, 42, of Lawrence; 

-  Oscar David Mejia Rodriguez, also known as Manguera, 53, of Methuen; 

- Jorge Ramon Rodriguez Jimenez, also known as Cibao, 47, of Lawrence; 

- Junior Rafael De La Rosa, 22, of Lawrence;

- Rosalba Berneche, also known as Rebusera, 19, of Lawrence; 

- Elvin Mendoza, 24, of Lawrence; 

- James Cann, 55, of Billerica; 

- Hector Mejia, also known as Tio, 59, of Lawrence; 

- Jesus Rojas, 27, of Lawrence; 

- Erick Andres Martinez, 20, of Haverhill. 

According to the criminal complaint, the investigation revealed that Diaz, Cruz, and Perez Soto led a drug trafficking organization that distributed drugs throughout the Merrimack Valley.

Flaco, Mejia Rodriguez, Rodriguez Jimenez, and others were drug sources for this drug trafficking organization. De La Rosa worked at the direction of Rodriguez Jimenez. Bernechea, Mendoza, Cann, Mejia, Rojas, and Martinez worked at the direction of Diaz, Cruz, and Perez Soto distributing fentanyl and cocaine, according to the criminal complaint. 

The charge of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl carries a sentence of at least 10 years and up to life in federal prison, at least five years of supervised release and a fine of up to $10 million.

The Andover, Billerica, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Methuen, North Andover, Salem, N.H., Tewksbury and Wilmington police departments assisted federal agents with the investigation, according to the DOJ. 

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces operation.

The task force identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. 

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.  

 

 

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