BOSTON – A woman pleaded guilty today in federal court in Worcester to her role in a wide-ranging fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine trafficking conspiracy.
Jessica Hughes, of Orange, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and cocaine base (crack cocaine). U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman scheduled sentencing for Oct. 6, 2022. Hughes was charged along with 17 others in July 2020.
According to court documents, following a fatal fentanyl overdose in September 2018, law enforcement began an investigation into a drug trafficking organization (DTO) in the Fitchburg area led by co-conspirators Pedro Baez and Anthony Baez. Beginning in July 2019, intercepted electronic communications revealed that Pedro and Anthony Baez worked together and with others to distribute a fentanyl and heroin mixture and crack cocaine on a regular basis to individuals in the Fitchburg area who then redistributed that mixture to others. Hughes was a regular drug customer of the DTO and routinely purchased both a fentanyl/heroin mixture and crack cocaine from Pedro Baez.
Over the course of the investigation, agents seized over 1.8 kilograms of a heroin and fentanyl mixture, over 3.6 kilograms of cocaine and over 50 grams of crack cocaine, as well as a stolen, loaded handgun, drug manufacturing equipment and over $376,000.
Hughes is the 13th defendant to plead guilty in the case. In December 2020, Anthony Baez was sentenced by Judge Hillman to 13 years in prison. Co-defendants Pedro Baez, Amanda Ford, Monica Troche, Branny Taveras, Shastaalena Blair, Valerie Lucier, Pablo Vidarte Hernandez, Kevin Martinez, Ricky Figueroa, Hector Matos and Rafael Hidalgo Rodriguez have also pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy.
The charge of conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, 400 grams or more of fentanyl, 280 grams or more of cocaine base, and 500 grams or more of cocaine provides for a sentence of up to life in prison, a term of supervised release of up to life and a fine of up to $10 million. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; Commissioner Carol Mici of the Massachusetts Department of Correction; and Colonel Christopher Mason, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, made the announcement today. The Fitchburg and Lunenburg Police Departments, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Massachusetts State Police provided valuable assistance. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alathea Porter of Rollins’ Narcotics & Money Laundering Unit is prosecuting the case.
The operation was conducted is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Strike Force Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location. This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations to disrupt and dismantle the most significant drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations. More information on the OCDETF program is available here: https://www.justice.gov/ocdetf/about-ocdetf.
The details contained in the indictment are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.