A Haverhill, Mass., man has been arrested and charged for allegedly manufacturing and distributing tens of thousands of counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl in the Lawrence and Boston areas.
Angel Joel Diaz, a/k/a “Guero,” 34, was charged by criminal complaint with distribution of and possession with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl. Diaz was detained following an initial appearance in federal court in Boston yesterday.
“Swallowing a lethal drug can have the exact same deadly outcome as injecting one. With the rise in counterfeit pill distribution, the health and safety of our communities are put at greater risk,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “We believe Mr. Diaz allegedly conspired to sell tens of thousands of these deadly counterfeit pills to areas in our Commonwealth and beyond. During the investigation, approximately 50,000 counterfeit pills were seized along with two pill presses. Each of those pills could result in a fatal overdose and we commend our law enforcement partners for this investigation and arrest which improves public safety.”
“The state of Massachusetts is faced with an opioid crisis unlike ever before,” said Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Field Division. “Those responsible for distributing lethal drugs like counterfeit pills containing fentanyl to the citizens of Massachusetts need to be held accountable for their actions. DEA will aggressively pursue Drug Trafficking Organizations and individuals who are distributing this poison. This investigation demonstrates the strength and continued commitment of our local, state and federal law enforcement partners. It is our mission to target those who seek to profit from the sale of deadly substances.”
According to the charging documents, in January 2023, an investigation began into Diaz’s fentanyl pill manufacturing and distribution operation. On Jan. 10, 2023, an undercover officer contacted Diaz posing as a potential drug customer seeking to purchase counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl. It is alleged that Diaz agreed to meet the following day, on Jan. 11, 2023, and provided the undercover officer with 208 fentanyl pills weighing approximately 26 grams. Half of the pills allegedly contained methamphetamine in addition to fentanyl. During the meeting, it is alleged that Diaz told the officer that he manufactures his own fentanyl pills, which he distributes in Lawrence and Boston as well as in New York via mail shipments. Following the meeting, Diaz allegedly maintained communication with the undercover officer about purchasing additional fentanyl pills. During the communications, it is alleged Diaz sent several photos depicting his manufacturing process including images of a blue substance in tin pans, wrapped bricks of suspected fentanyl and blue pills with “M/30” stamped.
It is further alleged that on two subsequent occasions, Jan. 27, 2023 and Feb. 7, 2023, Diaz distributed 5,150 and 8,500 counterfeit prescription pills containing suspected fentanyl to the undercover officer, respectively. On Feb. 14, 2023, Diaz allegedly sent a photo of suspected fentanyl pills to the undercover officer saying that, “even making it with a mask makes you want to vomit and everything.”
On Feb. 15, 2023, Diaz was arrested while carrying a shopping bag of approximately 31,800 fentanyl pills separated into seven plastic bags. According to court documents, during a subsequent search of Diaz’s Haverhill residence, law enforcement found: a pill press with powder residue on it, thousands of pills, pill stamps, several masks and loose powder of various colors; approximately 5,000 suspected fentanyl pills in a heat-sealed bag; suspected fentanyl powder and chemicals used in manufacturing pills; and in the garage a second pill press. In total, approximately 37,000-40,000 fentanyl pills were seized during execution of the search warrant along with the two pill presses, suspected fentanyl powder and various pill-manufacturing paraphernalia.
The charge of distribution of and possession with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl provides for a sentence of at least 10 years and up to life in prison, at least five years and up to a lifetime of supervised release and a fine of up to $10 million. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
U.S. Attorney Rollins and DEA SAC Boyle made the announcement today. Valuable assistance was provided by the Massachusetts State Police and the Haverhill Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel R. Feldman of Rollins’ Narcotics & Money Laundering Unit is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.