Six Arrested after DEA Task Force Investigation into Fentanyl Trafficking Ring

(STL.News) – John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for New England, today announced that the following six men were arrested yesterday on federal narcotics distribution and money laundering charges related to the large-scale distribution of fentanyl in Connecticut:

  • DOMINGO GUZMAN, 43, of Waterbury
  • ARMANDO GONZALEZ, 38, of New Britain
  • DAVID CINTRON, 24, of Manchester
  • DANIEL ESTREMERA, 40, of East Hartford
  • GILDARDO PEREZ-BENITEZ, also known as “Jesus Ayon,” 51, of North Canaan
  • XIANG QING ZHANG, also known as “Jay,” 41, of Brooklyn, New York

Pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the defendants were presented in court via videoconference. All are detained.

As alleged in court documents and statements made in court, in July 2019, the DEA’s Hartford Task Force began investigating a drug trafficking organization that was distributing fentanyl and heroin in Connecticut.  The investigation revealed that Domingo Guzman, Jesus Ayon and others received kilogram-quantities of narcotics, primarily fentanyl, from a source of supply, and then distributed the drug to various narcotics traffickers, including Armando Gonzalez, David Cintron and Daniel Estremera.  Gonzalez, Cintron, Estremera and others then sold the drug to street-level distributors.  Members of the organization delivered cash generated from the sale of narcotics to Zhang, a money broker in Brooklyn, New York, who assisted in laundering the narcotics proceeds before they were transferred to leaders of the drug trafficking organization.

During the investigation, it is alleged that Gonzalez and Cintron used several locations to store, process and package fentanyl for street stale, including office space on Pratt Street in Hartford, an apartment in the Asylum Hill neighborhood in Hartford, and an apartment in New Britain.  On December 19, 2019, Cintron was arrested on state charges shortly after he drove from the Pratt Street location and was found in possession of approximately 4,860 wax paper sleeves of fentanyl, 90 grams of unpackaged fentanyl, and other items used to process and package narcotics.

It is further alleged that Estremera used an apartment on South Street in West Hartford to process, package and store narcotics. On March 13, 2020, investigators searched the apartment and seized approximately 1.5 kilograms of fentanyl and approximately 500 wax folds of the drug.

It is also alleged that, between August and October 2019, investigators seized more than $200,000 in cash from members of the drug trafficking organization.

In association with yesterday’s arrests, investigators seized approximately $100,000 in cash, a firearm, several thousand wax folds of suspected fentanyl, and numerous items used in the processing and packaging of narcotics.

“We are living in a time of heightened awareness of public health and safety,” said U.S. Attorney Durham.  “This operation targeted a group of individuals who are alleged to be responsible for the widespread distribution of a drug that ruins lives, continues to kill people every day, and puts unneeded stress on law enforcement and healthcare resources.  I thank the DEA agents and task force officers who, at great risk to their own safety, are working during this time to protect our communities, disrupt the flow of this awful drug, and remove wrongdoers from the streets.”

“Fentanyl is causing great damage to our communities,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Boyle. “The men and women of DEA along with our law enforcement partners are hard at work protecting the public by taking this poison off the streets of Connecticut, especially during this very uncertain time of COVID-19.”

The defendants were arrested on criminal complaints charging each with possession with intent to distribute, and distribution of, controlled substances; conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and distribution of, controlled substances; money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

U.S. Attorney Durham stressed that a complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt.  Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is alleged that Guzman, Gonzalez and Estremera all have criminal histories that include federal convictions.  Guzman and Estremera are currently on federal supervised release.

The DEA’s Hartford Task Force includes personnel from the DEA Hartford Resident Office and the Bristol, Hartford, East Hartford, Manchester, New Britain, Rocky Hill, Wethersfield, Windsor Locks and Willimantic Police Departments.  Agencies assisting the investigation include the DEA New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) Strike Force and the New York Police Department.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey M. Stone.
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