BOSTON – The head of a North Shore-based drug trafficking organization (DTO) and his mother have been convicted for their role in a conspiracy that manufactured and flooded the streets of Massachusetts with hundreds of thousands of counterfeit pills containing fentanyl manufactured at high volume pill presses.
Vincent Caruso, 27, aka “Fatz,” of Lynn, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Denise J. Casper to 250 months (more than 20 years) in prison and five years of probation. On March 15, 2022, Vincent Caruso pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl, cocaine, marijuana and other controlled substances; a count of conspiracy to possess firearms in pursuit of a drug trafficking felony; possession of firearms in pursuit of a crime of drug trafficking; conspiracy to interfere with commerce by theft (theft under the Hobbs Law); and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Vincent Caruso’s mother, Laurie Caruso, 52, also from Lynn, was sentenced by US District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton to nine years in prison and four years on probation yesterday. 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 been permanently closed. Vincent Caruso was a prolific and violent drug trafficker who flooded North Shore communities with hundreds of thousands of deadly counterfeit pills containing fentanyl. Caruso and his associates orchestrated numerous shootings and armed robberies using an arsenal of firearms – including machine guns – and then took to social media to brag about their incredibly destructive criminal conduct. That all of this took place while he was on bail is even more appalling. Caruso, along with his mother and co-conspirator Laurie Caruso, breathed poison and violence into our communities and you won’t hear about it on Instagram for a very long time,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy. . “Thanks to the exceptional and coordinated efforts of our law enforcement partners, this career criminal will now spend more than 20 years behind bars – outside of our communities and outside of social media. This office will continue its relentless pursuit of individuals who threaten public safety for profit.”
“Vincent Caruso, a self-proclaimed member of the Crip gang, and his mother, Laurie Caruso, ran a major drug trafficking organization that for years brought nothing but poison, mayhem and violence to the coast northern Massachusetts and beyond. They peddled hundreds of thousands of counterfeit fentanyl pills, capitalizing on those struggling with addiction, while raising an obscene amount of money,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Division. from the FBI. “The severity of these sentences 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 violent organized criminals as part of our joint efforts to protect the public,” said Special Agent James M. Ferguson. in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco. , Firearms and Explosives, Boston Division. “The conviction of a self-confessed Crips gang member in federal court for 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. ; this cannot and will not be tolerated and you will be held responsible for it.
The Carusos were arrested and charged by complaint on June 30, 2021 with co-conspirators Ernest Johnson and Nicole Benton 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 whose violence has been fueled by the distribution of drugs. Vincent Caruso was later indicted by a federal grand jury on January 19, 2022. Benton pleaded guilty to his role in the DTO and is scheduled to be sentenced September 8, 2022. Ernest Johnson also pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced September 13, 2022.
Vincent Caruso, a self-confessed Crip gang member, operated a large and sophisticated DTO with several subordinates who sold counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl to street gangs for further distribution on the North Shore. Laurie Caruso served as her son’s right hand in operations and was the main distributor for his well-armed DTO.
The investigation identified Vincent Caruso’s DTO as a common source of counterfeit fentanyl tablets and other controlled substances for several street gangs responsible for the upsurge in violence. Vincent Caruso’s DTO distributed approximately 36 kilograms of fentanyl, mostly in the form of pressed fentanyl tablets – equivalent to a total of over 360,000 fentanyl tablets – a significant portion of which was manufactured directly by the DTO by Vincent Caruso himself using multiple tablet presses capable of generating thousands of pills per hour. In order to move these quantities, Laurie Caruso personally dispensed fentanyl pills for DTO at all hours of the day and collected the money owed by drug customers. A single counterfeit fentanyl pill sells for between $10 and $20, generating millions of dollars in revenue for the DTO. In an effort to conceal DTO operations, Vincent and Laurie Caruso conspired to launder their illegal proceeds by conducting cash transactions through sports betting at a New Hampshire casino.
As part of his drug trafficking activities, Vincent Caruso possessed and used firearms and orchestrated multiple violent offenses, including two armed robberies and a machine gun shooting.
The first armed robbery took place on March 5, 2020, while Vincent Caruso was on bail on fentanyl and firearms charges. He orchestrated an armed robbery and home invasion in which two individuals armed with a gun and zippers robbed occupants of an apartment of approximately $18,000 and jewelry. Vincent Caruso dropped off the thieves, waited at a nearby cafe, and returned to pick them up after the theft.
In May 2021, a second armed robbery also took place while Vincent Caruso was on bail on state fentanyl and firearms charges. For this incident, Vincent Caruso enlisted associates to hold up an individual. Surveillance video shows assailants rushing towards the victim, including an assailant who was armed with an AR-15 type rifle. The victim fled and fled. Police responded and pursued the assailant, who threw the AR-15-style rifle into a dumpster. The assailant ran down the highway and escaped the police.
A third violent incident took place shortly after midnight on June 29, 2021 in Lynn. For this incident, Vincent Caruso provided a fully automatic handgun to an associate. The associate then used a fully automatic handgun to fire dozens of rounds at a number of victims who were gathered on a porch. Bullets hit residences, vehicles and three people who were hit by the gunfire and survived. This incident was captured on surveillance video.
In addition, while on bail, Vincent Caruso posted dozens of photos and videos on social media showing him in possession of firearms and machine guns, large quantities of fentanyl allegedly distributed by his organization, large sums of money and high-end products. jewelry.
More than 1.5 kilograms of pressed fentanyl tablets, more than 12 firearms, several luxury brand watches, chains, four medallions, two custom ATVs, a dirt bike and more than $177,000 in cash were recovered through various search warrants executed in this and related investigations.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Levy, FBI SAC Bonavolonta, ATF SAC Ferguson and Massachusetts States Police Superintendent Col. Christopher Mason made the announcement today. Assistance was provided by the Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk county district attorneys’ offices; Essex, Middlesex, Suffolk, and Hancock (Maine) Counties Sheriffs Departments; U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine; Maine Drug Enforcement Agency; and Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Danvers, Everett, Lynn, Malden, Salem, Saugus, Somerville, Revere, Bolton, Maine, Bangor, Maine, Portland, Maine, and Westbrook, Maine police departments. Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip A. Mallard of the Organized Crime and Gangs Unit prosecuted the cases.
This effort is part of an operation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OECDTF). The OECDTF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OECDTF program is available at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.