Leader of violent fentanyl pill trafficking organization and his mother sentenced to years in prison | USAO-MA
BOSTON — The leader of a North Shore-based drug trafficking organization (DTO) and his mother have been convicted of their roles in a conspiracy that manufactured and flooded the streets of Massachusetts with hundreds of thousands of counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl produced on high-volume pill presses .
Vincent Caruso, 27, a/k/a “Fatz” from Lynn, was sentenced by US District Court Judge Denise J. Casper to 250 months (more than 20 years) in prison and five years of supervised release. On March 15, 2022, Vincent Caruso pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess 400 grams or more of fentanyl, cocaine, marijuana and other controlled substances; a charge of conspiracy to possess firearms to further a crime related to drug trafficking; possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; conspiracy to disrupt trade by robbery (Hobbs Act robbery); and a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Yesterday, Vincent Caruso’s mother, Laurie Caruso, 52, also of Lynn, was sentenced to nine years in prison and four years of supervised release by US District Judge Nathaniel Gorton. On February 28, 2022, Laurie Caruso pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl and other controlled substances.
“This family business has finally closed. Vincent Caruso was a prolific and violent drug trafficker who flooded North Shore communities with hundreds of thousands of deadly counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl. Caruso and his associates orchestrated numerous shootings and armed robberies using an arsenal of firearms — including machine guns — then took to social media to brag about their incredibly destructive criminal behavior. That all of this happened while he was in custody is even more appalling. Caruso, along with his mother and co-conspirator Laurie Caruso, pumped poison and violence into our communities and you won’t be hearing from them on Instagram for a long time,” said First Assistant Attorney Joshua S. Levy. “Thanks to the extraordinary, coordinated efforts of our law enforcement partners, this career criminal will now spend more than 20 years behind bars – outside of our communities and off of social media. This office will continue its relentless pursuit of those who threaten public safety for profit.”
“Vincent Caruso, a self-confessed member of the Crip Gang, and his mother, Laurie Caruso, ran a major drug trafficking organization that brought nothing but poison, chaos, and violence to the Massachusetts North Shore and beyond for years. They sold hundreds of thousands of counterfeit pills containing fentanyl and benefited those struggling with addiction while raking in an obscene amount of money,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, the FBI’s Boston Branch Special Agent in Charge. “The severity of these verdicts reflects the seriousness of their criminal conduct and the tireless efforts of our North Shore Gang Task Force to make our communities safer for all.”
“ATF will continue to work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to identify organized violent criminals in our joint efforts to protect the public,” said James M. Ferguson, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Department of Boston. “The conviction in federal court of a self-confessed Crips gang member of possession of a machine gun and dangerous drugs should send a loud and clear message to anyone who chooses to engage in this type of criminal activity; it cannot and will not be tolerated and you will be held accountable.”
The Carusos were arrested on June 30, 2021, along with co-conspirators Ernest Johnson and Nicole Benton, and charged via complaint as part of an investigation that began in 2020 in response to an increased number of shootings in communities north of Boston by street gangs, the violence of which was being carried out by fueled the distribution of drugs. Vincent Caruso was later indicted by a federal grand jury on January 19, 2022. Benton has pleaded guilty to her role in the DTO and is scheduled to be sentenced on September 8, 2022. Ernest Johnson has also pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on September 13, 2022.
Vincent Caruso, a self-confessed member of the Crip Gang, ran a large and sophisticated multi-subordinate DTO that sold counterfeit fentanyl-containing prescription pills to street gangs for further distribution on the North Shore. Laurie Caruso served as her son’s right-hand man in the shop and was the main distributor for his well-armed DTO.
The investigation identified Vincent Caruso’s DTO as a common source of counterfeit pressed fentanyl pills and other controlled substances for several street gangs responsible for the rise in violence. Vincent Caruso’s DTO distributed approximately 36 kilograms of fentanyl, mostly in the form of pressed fentanyl pills –– totaling over 360,000 fentanyl pills — a significant portion of which was manufactured directly by Vincent Caruso’s DTO itself, using multiple pill presses capable were able to produce thousands of pills per hour. To move these amounts, Laurie Caruso personally distributed fentanyl pills 24 hours a day for the DTO and collected cash debts from drug customers. A single counterfeit fentanyl pill retails between $10 and $20, generating millions of dollars in revenue for the DTO. To cover up the activities of the DTO, Vincent and Laurie Caruso conspired to launder their illicit earnings by conducting cash transactions through sports betting at a New Hampshire casino.
To further his drug trafficking activities, Vincent Caruso owned and used firearms and orchestrated several violent crimes, including two armed robberies and a machine gun shootout.
The first armed robbery took place on March 5, 2020, while Vincent Caruso was released in court on state fentanyl and firearms charges. He orchestrated an armed robbery and home invasion in which two people armed with a gun and zip ties robbed residents of an apartment with about $18,000 and jewelry. Vincent Caruso dropped off the robbers, waited at a nearby cafe, and returned to pick them up after the robbery.
In May 2021, a second armed robbery took place while Vincent Caruso was released in court on state fentanyl and firearms charges. For this incident, Vincent Caruso recruited associates to rob a person. Surveillance video shows attackers running toward the victim, including one armed with an AR-15 rifle. The victim escaped and ran away. Police responded and pursued the attacker, who dumped the AR-15 rifle in a dumpster. The attacker ran onto the highway and escaped from the police.
A third violent incident occurred in Lynn just after midnight on June 29, 2021. For this incident, Vincent Caruso provided an employee with a fully automatic pistol. The associate then used an automatic pistol to fire dozens of shots at a line of victims gathered on a porch. Bullets hit homes, vehicles and three people who were hit by the gunfire and survived. This incident was caught on surveillance video.
Additionally, during his release from the state investigation, Vincent Caruso posted dozens of photos and videos via social media showing him in possession of firearms and machine guns, large amounts of fentanyl that would be distributed by his organization, large amounts of cash and high-end -Products showed jewelry.
Over 3 pounds of pressed fentanyl pills, over 12 firearms, several luxury brand watches, chains, four lockets, two custom ATVs, a dirt bike and over $177,000 in cash were recovered through various search warrants conducted in this and related investigations.
The announcement was made today by First Assistant Attorney Levy, FBI SAC Bonavolonta, ATF SAC Ferguson and Superintendent of the Massachusetts States Police, Colonel Christopher Mason. Assistance was provided by the Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk County District Attorneys; Essex, Middlesex, Suffolk and Hancock (Maine) County Sheriffs’ Departments; US Attorney for the District of Maine; Maine Drug Enforcement Agency; and the Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Danvers, Everett, Lynn, Malden, Salem, Saugus, Somerville, Revere, Bolton, Maine, Bangor, Maine, Portland, Maine, and Westbrook, Maine Police Departments. US Assistant Attorney Philip A. Mallard of the Organized Crime and Gangs Division prosecuted the cases.
This effort is part of an operation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF). OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-gathering, multi-agency approach. For more information about the OCDETF program, visit https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.