Metro

Three men charged in fentanyl distribution ring

Three men were charged Thursday in federal court in Boston with participating in a scheme to distribute more than 400 grams of fentanyl in the Merrimack Valley, according to US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling’s office.

In a statement, Lelling’s office identified the suspects as Javier Marrero, 27, and Ariel Pagan-Romero, 29, both of Lawrence, and Jonathan Bermudez, 23, of Lowell.

They’re each charged with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl, according to the statement.

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“Pagan-Romero was arrested yesterday and appeared in federal court in Boston,” the statement said. “Bermudez is currently in state custody on an unrelated state drug charge and will appear in federal court at a later date. Marrero is currently a wanted fugitive.”

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Prosecutors said an undercover officer helped expose the alleged drug ring.

“When law enforcement executed several search warrants, they seized drugs, three firearms, including an AR-15 rifle, an extended magazine, and more than 100 rounds of ammunition,” the statement said.

The searches were conducted at locations in Lowell, Lawrence, and Dracut, according to court records.

The men could do serious time if convicted.

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“The charge of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison, a fine of up to $10 million, and at least five years of supervised release,” the statement said. “Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.”

Lelling’s office said the probe was part of a broader initiative.

“This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone,” the release said. “The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.