Authorities arrest multiple people in alleged drug trafficking ring they say could produce 15,000 counterfeit Percocet pills per hour

Several people were arrested and charged on Wednesday in connection with the operation of a drug trafficking organization that supplied counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl to suppliers on the north Massachusetts coast, according to the Massachusetts Department of Justice press release.

Authorities believe the defendants owned a tablet press that could produce 15,000 tablets per hour, which they used to make counterfeit Percocet pills containing fentanyl.

The following are the detainees and their charges according to the press release:

  • Vincent Caruso, 26, “Fatz” and “Big Boy”, from Salem
    • Charged with conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl; a charge of conspiracy to conduct financial transactions affecting the interstate trade in the proceeds of the trade in a controlled substance; and a firearm conspiracy charge to promote a drug trafficking conspiracy. He was also charged with a conspiracy to own a tablet machine to make a controlled substance.
  • Ernest Johnson, 33, “Yo Pesci,” from Salem
    • Charged with conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl; a charge of conspiracy to conduct financial transactions affecting the interstate trade in the proceeds of the trade in a controlled substance; and a firearm conspiracy charge to promote a drug trafficking conspiracy.
  • Laurie Caruso (Vincent’s mother) 51, from Lynn
    • Charged with a conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess the intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl and a conspiracy to conduct financial transactions involving international trade in which the proceeds of the trade in a controlled substance are used becomes.
  • Nicole Benton, 45, from Saugus
    • Charged with a conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess the intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl and a conspiracy to conduct financial transactions involving international trade in which the proceeds of the trade in a controlled substance are used becomes.
  • Cesar Rivera, 22, from Revere
    • Separately charged with possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute and once with conspiracy to possess and use a firearm to promote a drug trafficking crime.

Caruso is a self-proclaimed Crip gang member who, according to indictments, runs a large drug trafficking organization with co-defendants Johnson, Laurie Caruso, Benton and others to sell counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl to street gangs on the north coast.

A counterfeit fentanyl pill can sell for anywhere between $ 10 and $ 20, according to documents. Vincent Caruso is said to have several pill presses that can produce thousands of pills per hour, which means that it has achieved sales potential in the millions.

Court documents also allege Vincent Caruso and Johnson owned and used firearms in other drug trafficking activities by posting footage of firearms including an AR15, fentanyl pills, cash and high quality jewelry.

“Johnson allegedly described his involvement in shootings, beatings and drug trafficking and identified people he thought were a ‘rat’ or a ‘spike’,” the press release said.

Benton and Laurie Caruso reportedly conducted cash transactions for illicit drug-trafficking revenues by placing sports bets at a New Hampshire casino, the statement said.

The Organized Crime Drug Control Task Force conducted this operation in collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

The mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and eliminate the most serious drug trafficking, arms trafficking and money laundering organizations, as well as those primarily responsible for the country’s illicit drug supply, according to the publication.

Copies of the loading documents containing all allegations are available online.

Vincent Caruso, Johnson, Laurie Caruso and Benton were all arrested this morning. You will be making your first appearances in federal court in Boston this afternoon via Zoom.

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