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News Release
March 23, 2004

Two Drug Traffickers Sentenced to Federal Prison

Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge of the U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration in New England and Kevin J. O'Connor, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that JUAN E. BERROA NUNEZ, age 47, formerly of 2383 Morris Avenue, Bronx, New York has been sentenced to 130 months' imprisonment. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson yesterday, March 22, in Hartford federal court. BERROA NUNEZ, who is a citizen of the Dominican Republic, faces deportation after he serves his sentence of imprisonment. On October 31, 2003, BERROA NUNEZ pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. BERROA NUNEZ has been in custody since his arrest on related state charges in New York on February 28, 2001, when he was caught in possession of two kilograms of cocaine.

BERROA NUNEZ was indicted with three other individuals, Sotero Rivera, Serapio Rivera, and Juan Candalario, in July 2002. The indictment resulted from a Drug Enforcement Administration's New Haven Drug Task Force long-term investigation into a New York organization operating a" crack" distribution ring in New Haven. In court proceedings, it was disclosed that the task force investigation, which involved cellular telephone taps and seizures of cash and drugs, established that BERROA NUNEZ and his co-defendants were responsible for distributing large quantities of" crack" and cocaine powder in New Haven from the fall 2001 through their arrests.

Serapio Rivera was sentenced by Judge Thompson in January 2004 to an 87-month term of incarceration. Sotero Rivera was sentenced by Judge Thompson on February 17, 2004 to ten years of incarceration. Juan Candelario has pleaded guilty and currently awaits sentencing.

In a related case, MARIO FERMIN, age 25, formerly of 160 West 168th Street, Bronx, New York was sentenced yesterday by Judge Thompson to concurrent 35 month terms of imprisonment for his involvement in two cases, one in the District of Connecticut and one that was transferred from the Southern District of Texas. FERMIN pleaded guilty to the Connecticut charge on October 28, 2002, to possession with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. On January 3, 2003, he pleaded guilty in Hartford to the same charge in the case that originated in Texas. FERMIN has been incarcerated since his arrest in the Connecticut case on April 24, 2002. FERMIN, who is a citizen of the Dominican Republic, faces deportation after he serves his sentence of imprisonment.

The indictment in which FERMIN was charged in Connecticut arose out of an investigation conducted by the DEA's New Haven Drug Task Force. The investigation began in the summer of 2000 and continued through December 2001, targeting the distribution of cocaine and "crack" cocaine in the New Haven area by a New York-based organization.

According to information disclosed during court proceedings, the investigation established that the New York organization was transporting large quantities of cocaine to New Haven for distribution. Using sophisticated investigative techniques, including a twelve-month program of court-authorized wiretaps, the Task Force determined that the New York organization was being supplied, in part, by Sergio Torres, a larger wholesale distributor located in New Haven. Wiretaps and other investigative techniques established that Torres was obtaining multiple-kilogram quantities of cocaine from Mexico on a regular basis, with transhipment of the drugs moving through Los Angeles and Chicago, onto New Haven, then to New York, and finally, with respect to some of the drugs, back to New Haven for local distribution. During the course of the investigation, agents and officers seized hundreds of pounds of cocaine in Connecticut and New York. When he was sentenced on September 3, 2003 to 235 months imprisonment, Judge Thompson found that Torres was responsible for the distribution of over 50 kilograms of cocaine.

The Torres investigation resulted in three indictments in which 14 individuals, including FERMIN, were charged with cocaine conspiracy and related charges. Of those, 13 have entered pleas of guilty, and five await sentencing.

The investigation by the Task Force was part of a broader, regional initiative of the DEA designated Operation Vise Grip. In connection with the regional initiative, the Task Force provided information and wire intercepts obtained in the investigation in New England to law enforcement authorities in New York, California, Illinois and Massachusetts. The ensuing investigations resulted in the arrest of over 70 defendants in those states, as well as the seizure of over 1000 kilograms of cocaine and over $8 million in U.S. currency.

In the Southern District of Texas case, the federal investigation disclosed that FERMIN was a participant in a conspiracy that was shipping multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine overland from Houston to Atlanta. All of the defendants in this case have entered pleas of guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

These cases were investigated by the New Haven Drug Task Force, which is composed of elements of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the New Haven and West Haven Police Departments.


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