MA: Major fentanyl lab busted in Lawrence; police make 10 arrests

A variety of illegal drugs and weapons, along with cash, were seized Thursday during a major drug raid dubbed “Operation Philly Special”, according to state police.

What police are calling an “active fentanyl processing plant” was found in a Whitman Street apartment during a major investigation involving local and state police and federal agents.

Officers and troopers had gone to the third floor apartment at 46 Whitman St. on Thursday to execute search warrants as part of a larger narcotics investigation dubbed “Operation Philly Special.”

The active fentanyl plant was found after police “observed unidentified powders and an overwhelming odor of ammonia,” according to a state police report released Monday.

Officers and troopers immediately exited the building and called in the multi-agency Clandestine Lab Enforcement Team from the state’s Department of Fire Services, which has specialized apparatus and testing equipment, according the report.

Lawrence firefighters were also called to the apartment as a precaution.

Wearing full-body personal protective equipment, the team members collected multiple samples that tested positive for fentanyl, suspected fentanyl packaged in bags and “multiple presses used to compact and shape the drug prior to packaging and distribution,” according to the state police report.

The third-floor apartment was condemned by city inspectors.

The discovery of the fentanyl plant in the Lawrence apartment was part of a larger investigation. Search warrants were executed at seven locations in Lawrence, Lynn and Methuen and numerous Lawrence residents arrested.

As a result of the search warrants, investigators seized approximately 18.25 kilograms of fentanyl, two semi-automatic pistols, approximately $10,000 cash suspected to be drug trafficking proceeds, a Mercedes Benz vehicle and a portable hydraulic compartment suspected of having been used to secrete drugs and money, state police said.

At another target location in Lawrence troopers were trying to get inside when a woman rushed a child with a backpack out of the residence.

Investigators stopped the woman and child and located a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and ammunition inside the backpack. The woman was charged with child endangerment, police said.

Over the several-months of the investigation, authorities seized an additional kilogram-plus of fentanyl and another firearm, police said.

Authorities said the seized fentanyl, once cut up and sold on the street, would have an estimated value of nearly $1 million.

The following were arrested and charged as a result of the investigation:

Rafael Saldana Dias, 26, of Lawrence; trafficking a Class A substance, over 36 grams (4 counts), trafficking a Class A substance, over 200 grams and conspiracy .

Yosmeiry Martinez Ramon, 21, of Lawrence; trafficking a Class A substance, over 200 grams and conspiracy.

Freddy Alexander Suazo Tejeda, 36, of Lawrence; trafficking a Class A substance, over 200 grams and conspiracy.

Rafelin Lugo Tejeda, 32, of Lawrence; trafficking a Class A substance, over 200 grams and conspiracy.

Yahannys Anziani, 34, of Lawrence; unlawful Possession of Firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition and child endangerment .

August Moscat, 39, of Lawrence; unlawful possession of firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition and child endangerment.

Henderson Martinez, 34, of Lawrence; trafficking a Class A substance, over 36 grams.

Wilkin Antonio Perez, 26, of Lawrence; trafficking a Class A substance, over 200 grams.

Marcos Santos, 37, of Lawrence; conspiracy.

Henderson Martin, 34, of Lawrence; trafficking of Class A substance, over 200 grams.

“Operation Philly Special” was the result of a lengthy investigation conducted by the State Police Commonwealth Interstate Narcotics Reduction and Enforcement Team, troopers assigned to Attorney General Andrea Campbell’s office, federal Homeland Security Investigations, and Salem, N.H., police, state police said.

The investigation began in November 2022 based on information provided by the Salem, N.H. police department. It focused on a Lawrence-based drug trafficking organization that was supplying fentanyl throughout the Merrimack Valley, according to state police.

Investigators used various investigative techniques, including traditional and electronic surveillance, data analysis, and court-authorized electronic intercepts of target cell phones. As a result of information developed through these methods, investigators obtained search warrants for five locations in Lawrence and one each in Lynn and Methuen.

The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Division Chief Christina Ronan and Assistant Attorney General Gretchen Brodigan of the AG’s Enterprise & Major Crimes Division.

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