Jose Martinez of Lawrence Sentenced to Over Five Years in Prison for Fentanyl and Firearm Offenses

BOSTON – A Lawrence man was sentenced today in federal court in Boston for drug trafficking activities involving fentanyl and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Jose Martinez, 26, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Sterns to 66 months in prison and four years of supervised release. On Aug. 31, 2021, Martinez pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

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Martinez was charged as part of a coordinated enforcement operation in the Merrimack Valley dubbed “Operation Devil’s Highway.” The operation targeted the distribution of opioids, including fentanyl and heroin, and resulted in charges against a total of 40 people for federal drug offenses, with at least a dozen more individuals facing state charges.

In the spring of 2019, federal agents began an investigation into a drug trafficking organization (DTO) in the Lawrence area. Between April and June 2019, federal agents made five controlled purchases of fentanyl from the DTO. Each purchase took place near Martinez’s residence and the fentanyl was delivered by Martinez’s co-defendant, Ronyel Pena. Immediately following the transactions, Pena was observed going directly to Martinez’s home.

Following a controlled purchase in June 2019, agents arrested Pena and approached Martinez’s residence. After knocking and hearing movement inside, agents forced entry out of concern for potential destruction of evidence. As agents entered, Martinez attempted to flee out of a window but was detained at the perimeter of the property. A search of the home revealed a loaded Kel Tec .566 semi-automatic rifle caliber pistol, a Glock 26 handgun, as well as additional ammunition, a bullet proof vest, an attachment for a firearm and gun oil. Law enforcement also found two large plastic bags containing empty capsules, a tray to fill pill capsules, several wet plastic bags in the trash can that contained a white residue, a bottle of lactose and several plastic bags, a digital scale, a money counter, a large quantity of cash and multiple cellphones. In the bathroom, agents found hundreds of empty green pill capsules and a smashed cell phone in the sink and observed that the toilet water was green, similar in color to the pill capsule – indicating that Martinez had destroyed evidence by flushing fentanyl down the toilet and smashing cell phones.

In May 2021, Pena was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and four years of supervised release.

United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; and Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Field Division made the announcement. The Massachusetts State Police and the Lawrence Police Department assisted in this investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alathea Porter of Rollins’ Narcotics & Money Laundering Unit prosecuted the case.