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Photograph of money seized during the police investigation into the Martinez drug enterprise.

CONCORD — The trial of an accused Lawrence, Mass.-based fentanyl kingpin ended in a guilty plea Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

Sergio Martinez, 29, will be sentenced to 45 years in prison and forfeit $2 million if a judge accepts the plea deal, U.S. Attorney Scott Murray said Wednesday.

The cross-border operation lasted from 2015 to April 2018 when police started making arrests. According to a tapped telephone conversation, Martinez at one point bragged that he moved as much as 35 kilograms a month of the deadly opioid fentanyl.

The plea agreement came in the sixth day of Martinez’ trial.

“The evidence in this case demonstrates that Lawrence-based fentanyl traffickers have made huge profits from pumping large quantities of deadly fentanyl into New Hampshire,” Murray said in a statement.

In April 2018, federal officials announced they had broken up the ring and brought charges against 45 Massachusetts and New Hampshire residents. Since then, most have pleaded guilty. Martinez was one of few to take his case to trial.

“What we give out is poison,” Martinez said in an intercepted telephone call that was played for the jury. At another point, he told a supplier in Sinaloa, Mexico, that he moved between 15 and 35 kilograms a month.

Prosecutors said the Martinez operation went by the street name “Brian” and most customers came from New Hampshire. Distributors would pick out customers on the streets of Lawrence by their New Hampshire license plates.

The trial detailed a sophisticated operation that included a telephone dispatch center operating from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day, according to Murray’s office.

Street-level users would place an order for a $30 gram of fentanyl and be directed to the location of distributors in Lawrence or Haverhill, Mass., and sometimes Salem.

Martinez would supply street-level dealers with 200-gram bags of fentanyl. Their customers, many driving cars with New Hampshire license plates, would line up 10 to 15 deep on the street, prosecutors said.

A second tier of distributors placed orders directly with Martinez or with his brother, Raulin Martinez, these being 10 to 200 grams of fentanyl at a time. Those orders numbered from 50 to 100 calls a day, and the distributors operated independently.

The largest orders — a kilogram or more — involved runners delivering the fentanyl by taxi.


The Massachusetts driver license of Sergio Martinez

The trial features testimony of customers and co-defendants who had pleaded guilty to charges with the expectation they testify. Martinez’ brother Raulin was on the witness list but had not testified before his brother decided to plead guilty.

During the trial, drug runners testified to handing over $30,000 to $35,000 per day to the Martinez operation. When police stopped him at one point, Martinez had $400,494 in cash that he intended to send to the Dominican Republic.


A photograph of drugs seized by law enforcement during the investigation into the Martinez drug operation.

That money was seized by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, and the $2 million that Martinez must forfeit includes money in his name that is held in two bank accounts in the Dominican Republic.

Martinez pleaded guilty to running a continuing criminal enterprise and participating in a money-laundering conspiracy.

Prosecutors say another 34 Massachusetts residents have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Nine have pleaded guilty and already have been sentenced. Four are fugitives.

Twelve New Hampshire residents have pleaded guilty and one is awaiting trial.

The investigation was overseen by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and involved the DEA, the IRS, the Marshals Service, ICE, Customs and Border Patrol and state and local police in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Sunday, October 20, 2019