Dartmouth detective’s information leads to fentanyl sentences

Oct 7, 2021

The leader and a top lieutenant of a major New Bedford area fentanyl trafficking ring have been sentenced to state prison following a lengthy investigation that began with a Dartmouth Police detective, according to Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III’s office.

Orlando Badillo, 42, of New Bedford, who was the leader of the fentanyl trafficking organization, pleaded guilty in Fall River Superior Court Sept. 24 to indictments charging him with trafficking fentanyl in excess of 100 grams, trafficking fentanyl in excess of 36 grams and conspiracy to violate the drug laws.  

Judge Susan Sullivan sentenced him to serve eight to ten years in state prison, to be followed by two years of supervised probation.

 One of his top lieutenants and distributors, Pedro Cruz, 41, of New Bedford, pleaded guilty Sept. 30 to indictments charging him with possession with intent to distribute fentanyl,  possession of a class D drug with intent to distribute and conspiracy to violate the drug laws.  

He was sentenced to serve five-and-a-half to eight years in state prison and was ordered to forfeit $3,070 illegally obtained via narcotics sales, the district attorney’s office reported.

The fentanyl ring was dismantled more than two years ago as a result of a year-long multi-agency investigation led by the district attorney’s office, prosecutors reported.

The investigation, known as “Operation Ghost,’’ began in June 2018 when a Dartmouth Police detective, who was not identified, developed credible information that Badillo was operating a large-scale fentanyl drug trafficking organization in greater New Bedford, the district attorney’s office reported.

The detective sought the assistance of the Massachusetts State Police Narcotics Unit assigned to the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office. 

 As their work progressed, other law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security, the Bristol County Sheriff's Office and New Bedford Police, joined in the investigation, creating a Multi-Jurisdictional Investigative Task Force.  

 On April 30, 2019 after almost a year of investigation, members of the task force were granted 11 search warrants and 13 arrest warrants. 

When the investigation ended, police had seized approximately 5,000 grams (five kilos) of fentanyl; 13 grams of crack cocaine; 35 grams of methamphetamine; an illegal large capacity firearm; assorted items consistent with the illegal distribution of narcotics, including digital scales, boxes of sandwich baggies, sifters, cut corner baggies, cutting agents and drug ledgers, the district attorney’s office reported.

Police also seized $112,333 in cash that is believed to be the proceeds from the illegal sales of fentanyl.

 “Operation Ghost” was coordinated by Assistant District Attorney Steve Butts, the Chief of DA Quinn’s Drug Prosecution Unit, who also prosecuted the two cases. 

“I’m very pleased these defendants were held accountable for running a large-scale fentanyl distribution ring out of the City of New Bedford. Both defendants had significant criminal records and were fueling the drug habits of many people in New Bedford and surrounding communities,’’ District Attorney Quinn said. “They clearly are dangers to the community and the state prison sentences were appropriate.’’