Two men have been arrested after being accused of planning to sell fentanyl to veterans being treated for substance abuse at a Boston area Veterans Affairs medical center.
“Veterans seeking treatment for substance abuse are often at their most vulnerable. The VA Office of Inspector General is committed to ensuring VA medical centers are safe for veterans receiving care,” the VA Office of Inspector General’s Northeast Field Office Special Agent in Charge Christopher Algieri said in a U.S. Justice Department press release last week.
The Justice Department accuses Deiby Bladimil Casado Ruiz, known as “El Bebo,” and Pedro Antonio Sanchez Bernabel of attempting to distribute fentanyl to veterans at the facility over a three-month period earlier this year. The duo will now face a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 to 40 years for conspiracy to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl.
“What these two men are accused of doing is absolutely appalling,” Joseph R. Bonavolonta, a special agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said in the release. “We believe they targeted veterans who have valiantly defended our country’s freedoms and are now seeking treatment for their substance abuse disorder, and plied them with fentanyl, a deadly narcotic 50-100 times stronger than morphine.”
Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are at increased risk of drug abuse, with the VA estimating that 20% of veterans who suffer from PTSD also abuse drugs or alcohol.
Meanwhile, fentanyl has become the leading driver of the opioid crisis in the U.S. and can lead to overdose deaths with small doses.
“Massachusetts is in the midst of a devastating opioid crisis as deaths from fentanyl climb,” Special Agent Brian D. Boyle of the Drug Enforcement Administration said in the release. Today’s arrests serve as a warning to those traffickers who are fueling the opioid epidemic and addiction.”