Police bust large drug trafficking operation, warn of risk posed by deadly tranquilizer xylazine

The multi-state operation dealt meth, pills, cocaine, and more, police said.

Officials displayed some of the drugs seized Thursday. Middlesex District Attorney's office

Police arrested 13 people early Thursday morning in connection to a large drug trafficking operation. 

Those arrested allegedly distributed fentanyl, methamphetamine, pills, and cocaine. Authorities found that some of the pills contained the tranquilizer xylazine. The substance has been increasingly found mixed with fentanyl. Xylazine puts users at an increased risk of overdose, and its effects are not reversible with Narcan, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan’s office announced

On Wednesday The White House sounded the alarm about the growing risk of xylazine. The fentanyl-xylazine combination was designated as an “emerging threat to the United States.” Xylazine has been approved by the FDA for veterinary use but not human use.


Reports of xylazine increased throughout the entire country between 2020 and 2021. Xylazine-positive overdose deaths increased by 1,127% in the south, 750% in the west, more than 500% in the Midwest, and more than 100% in the northeast, according to The White House. 

Thursday’s arrests were the culmination of an investigation that lasted more than two years, conducted by Framingham Police, State Police, federal agents, and more. 

A total of 19 search warrants were executed in Framingham, Peabody, Worcester, Ashland, Lawrence, Northbridge, Woburn, and North Smithfield, R.I., officials said. Police seized approximately 6 kilograms of fentanyl, 2 kilograms of cocaine, 15 pounds of methamphetamine, 40 pounds of amphetamine, and 15,000 pressed pills of fentanyl and methamphetamine. 

Officers also seized one unlawfully possessed gun, three loaded magazines, more than $100,000 in cash, $200,000 worth of jewelry, a pill press, and other tools used to distribute drugs throughout a large operation. 

On top of that, police seized 13 high-end vehicles valued at more than $800,000. 

The following people were arrested: Sandy Marte-Caraballo, 34, of Woburn, Osny De La Cruz, 25, of Lawrence, Santos Martes, 31, of Peabody, Bryan Mendez, 28, of Worcester, Angel Battiata, 27, Roberto Castro, 34, of Worcester, Joshua Fontaine, 30, of Worcester, Charles Johnston, 62, of Ashland, Crystal Trauterman, 40, of Ashland, Maia Masso, 28, of Framingham, Cameron Trudell, 32, of Northbridge, Efrain Urena, 32, of Lawrence, and  Ana Caraballo, 56, of Worcester.


A judge issued a wiretap warrant on Feb. 23, officials said. Marte-Caraballo and De La Cruz allegedly led the drug trafficking operation. Customers in Woburn, Lawrence, Framingham, Natick, Ashland, and Worcester areas all bought from this operation. 

The supplies for the drugs originated in New York and New Jersey before being moved to Worcester and Essex counties, Ryan said at a press conference. The drug trafficking operation was very lucrative, officials said. One member boasted about making as much as $2 million a year. Ryan estimated that the operation pulled in between $5,000 and $6,000 a day. 

“I want to really stress both the commitment of all the law enforcement agencies involved in this as well as the importance of what was taken here. This represents over two years of work, an enormous amount of investigation,” Ryan said. “I am incredibly grateful to all of our law enforcement partners and to the folks in our office who have really put their own other work on hold over the last two years to focus on this and to get to the place where we are today.”


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