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Hartford Residents Charged with Trafficking Massive Quantity of Fentanyl

Leonard C Boyle, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for New England, today announced that a federal grand jury in New Haven has returned an eight-count indictment charging ERASMO ROSARIO-HERNANDEZ, also known as “Wally Rosario,” 38, and WILY ARIAS DE LA CRUZ, 38, both citizens of the Dominican Republic last residing in Hartford, with multiple offenses related to the distribution of fentanyl, heroin and crack cocaine.  Rosario is also charged with a firearm offense stemming from his possession of several assault rifles and other firearms.

As alleged in court documents and statements made in court, a DEA investigation identified Rosario and De La Cruz as members of a drug trafficking organization that has been trafficking in large quantities of fentanyl.  In the early morning of March 11, 2022, investigators, in Hartford, stopped a car in which De La Cruz was a passenger and seized two compressed bricks of fentanyl with a total weight of more than one kilogram.  Later in the morning, a court authorized search of Rosario’s residence on Magnolia Street in Hartford revealed approximately one kilogram of fentanyl, approximately 16,000 fentanyl pills disguised as 30 milligram oxycodone pills, three high-capacity magazine, and a bump stock device for an automatic rifle.  After a narcotics-detection canine alerted to Rosario’s Mercedes that was parked outside of the residence, investigators searched the car and seized approximately 14 kilograms of fentanyl, approximately 1,000 bags of prepackaged fentanyl, approximately 16,000 fentanyl pills, approximately 75 grams of heroin, 41 grams of cocaine base, a kilogram press, four assault-style rifles, two handguns, ammunition, multiple false identification cards with Rosario’s photo, and approximately $66,000 in counterfeit U.S. currency.

Rosario and De La Cruz have been detained since March 11.

The indictment, which was returned on March 22, charges Rosario and De La Cruz with conspiracy to distribute, and to possess with intent to distribute, 400 grams or more of fentanyl, and with possession with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl.  Each of these offenses carries a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a maximum term of imprisonment of life.  Rosario is also charged with offenses related to the distribution of heroin and cocaine base (“crack”), and with possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  The firearm offense carries a mandatory consecutive prison term of at least five years.

“It is alleged that these defendants have been involved in a drug trafficking network that involved a massive amount of fentanyl and the production of thousands of fentanyl pills that could easily be mistaken for legitimate oxycodone pills,” said U.S. Attorney Boyle.  “As fentanyl continues to be the leading cause of overdose deaths in Connecticut and around the country, we are determined to do everything  to stop of the flow of this deadly drug into and around our state.  This case represents one of the largest one-time seizures of fentanyl that we’ve seen in Connecticut, and I thank the DEA and its task force members for their excellent work.  Their efforts in taking these dangerous drugs and guns off the streets have saved lives.”

“Fentanyl is causing deaths in record numbers and DEA’s top priority is to aggressively pursue anyone who distributes this poison in order to profit and destroy lives,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Boyle.  “Illegal drug distribution ravages the very foundations of our families and communities so every time we take fentanyl off the streets, lives are saved.  This investigation demonstrates the strength of collaborative local, county and state law enforcement efforts in Connecticut and our strong partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

U.S. Attorney Boyle stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt.  Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This investigation is being conducted by the DEA’s Hartford Task Force, which includes personnel from the DEA Hartford Resident Office, the Connecticut State Police, and the Bristol, Hartford, East Hartford, Enfield, Manchester, New Britain, Rocky Hill, Wethersfield, Windsor Locks and Willimantic Police Departments.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey M. Stone through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Program.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations through a prosecutor-led and intelligence-driven approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.  Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

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