Police Bust Alleged Drug Ring Involving Wilmington Resident, Drugs Allegedly Obtained From Wilmington Pharmacy

(The following press release was provided by the Office of the Middlesex District Attorney, Marian Ryan.)

WOBURN, MA – Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan has announced that three men are scheduled to be arraigned today after being arrested allegedly with 14 kilos of heroin in their possession yesterday, and, in addition, indictments have been unsealed against 7 individuals who allegedly were part of an opiate drug dealing ring.

“We have been aggressively pursuing a multi-pronged approach to combat the flow of opiates and their effect in Middlesex County,” said District Attorney Ryan. “In addition to investigating and prosecuting those individuals who are profiting from bringing illegal drugs into our communities, we are working across Middlesex County to educate our youth, increase the availability of effective drug treatment, and expand the use of NasalNaloxone for police and fire officials so we can save lives.”

At approximately 12 p.m., Thursday, March 19, State Troopers assigned to the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office and officers with the Everett Police Department arrested Felix Valerio-Rodriguez, 27, Jose Fernandez Del Rosario, 23, and Manuel Gutierrez-Cunillera, 27, near TGI Fridays, 33 Mystic View Road, Everett. Officers found 14 kilos of heroin in a suitcase allegedly belonging to the suspects and seized two vehicles. 18 bricks of heroin were confiscated.

The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned today in Malden District Court on charges including conspiracy to violate the drug laws and trafficking in heroin of more than 200 grams. The prosecutor assigned to handle this arraignment is Assistant District Attorney Will Freeman, Deputy Director of the Special Investigations Unit of the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office.

In a separate case, indictments were unsealed yesterday pertaining to charges against 7 individuals in an alleged scheme involving Oxycodone, a highly addictive prescription painkiller and a Class B controlled substance in the Commonwealth. Named in the Middlesex County Grand Jury indictments which were unsealed are Howard Barter, Richard Bernier, Steven Cabral, Kyle Carroll, Joseph Khabbaz, Erica Murphy, and Timothy Pelletier.

Authorities say Howard Barter and Joseph Khabbaz were the organizers of the alleged Oxycodone scheme, obtaining forged prescriptions and also using someone they knew who worked at a hospital to provide them with physician information. Barter and Khabbaz allegedly recruited runners, including defendants BernierCabral, Carroll, Murphy, Pelletier, and several cooperating witnesses, to fill forged prescriptions and to drive runners to and from pharmacies for the purpose of obtaining Oxycodone pills.

The defendants allegedly obtained pills from pharmacies in Billerica, Burlington, Lowell, Malden, Tewksbury, Waltham, Watertown, and Wilmington, and then sold the pills on the black market or, in some situations, used the pills as payment or their own use. The incidents alleged in these indictments reportedly occurred between June and November of 2012 and resulted in the defendants obtaining more than 3,000 Oxycodone pills with a black market value of approximately $90,000.

Information on the status of the defendants is as follows:

Howard Barter, 32, of Tewksbury, was arraigned yesterday on a charge of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone, distribution of a counterfeit substance, and uttering a false prescription for a controlled substance. Bail was set at $3,000 cash with conditions to include Barter submit to GPS monitoring, abide by a curfew and weekend house arrest, seek/continue drug treatment, use no drugs, undergo drug screening, and have no travel outside of Massachusetts.

Joseph Khabbaz, 33, of Tewksbury, was arraigned yesterday on a charge of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone, distribution of Oxycodone, and uttering a false prescription for a controlled substance. Bail was set at $3,000 cash with conditions to include Khabbaz submit to GPS monitoring, abide by a curfew, seek/continue drug treatment, and undergo drug screening.

Richard Bernier, 33, of Billerica, was arraigned yesterday on charges of uttering a false prescription for a controlled substance and conspiracy to utter a false prescription for a controlled substance. A judge released Bernier on personal recognizance with conditions of release to include Bernier use no drugs, undergo drug screening, and have no travel outside of Massachusetts.

Steven Cabral, 23, of Wilmington, was arraigned yesterday on charges of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone and uttering a false prescription for a controlled substance. Bail was set at $3,000 cash with conditions to include Cabral use no drugs, undergo drug screening, and have no travel outside of Massachusetts.

Kyle Carroll, 29, of Bedford, was arraigned yesterday on charges of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone and uttering a false prescription for a controlled substance. Bail was set at $300 with conditions to include Carroll use no drugs, undergo drug screening, and have no travel outside of Massachusetts.

Two defendants named in the indictments unsealed yesterday were not arraigned. Erica Murphy, 32, of Manchester, New Hampshire, is in custody in New Hampshire on unrelated charges. In addition, a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Timothy Pelletier, 30, of Manchester, New Hampshire. Murphy will be scheduled for arraignment in Middlesex County on charges of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone and uttering a false prescription for a controlled substance. Pelletier will be arraigned in Middlesex County on charges of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone and uttering a false prescription for a controlled substance.

The prosecutor assigned to handle the Oxycodone cases is Assistant District Attorney Graham Van Epps. These indictments follow an investigation conducted by the Special Investigations Unit of the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, with support from the Methuen Police Department.

These charges in connection with the discovery of heroin in Everett and the alleged Oxycodone scheme are allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

District Attorney Ryan has worked in collaboration with community leaders, non-profit officials, and the medical and law enforcement community in the last several years to address the escalating overdose crisis with a number of programs and initiatives.

Efforts in Middlesex County to fight opiate abuse and overdoses began in earnest in 2012, when, District Attorney Ryan and State Senator Eileen Donoghue founded the Lowell Opiate Task Force. Members meet monthly to discuss emergency response, effective prevention ideas, and treatment programs. Task Force members include police officers, hospital personnel, social services, public health workers, and legislators.

Earlier this month, District Attorney Ryan co-hosted a training for medical professionals to encourage them to employ appropriate assessment, monitoring, and documentation strategies to meet best practice standards and medico-legal requirements when treating patients with chronic opioid therapy. The Greater Lowell Health Alliance led the workshop called SCOPE of Pain, a program sponsored by Boston University School of Medicine.

Also this month, District Attorney Ryan convened an all-day seminar in Westford for school professionals and other youth leaders to discuss recent data, research, and initiatives in the field of substance abuse. Other programs offered by District Attorney Ryan include Narcan training for first responders and the distribution of Drug Collection Units for communities to provide the public with a safe, accessible way to properly dispose of unused or expired medications.

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