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18 charged in wide-ranging fentanyl, heroin, crack and cocaine conspiracy

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18 charged in wide-ranging fentanyl, heroin, crack and cocaine conspiracy

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BOSTON — Eighteen individuals from Massachusetts and elsewhere were charged in a superseding indictment unsealed Friday in federal court in Boston on charges related to a wide-ranging fentanyl, heroin, crack and cocaine trafficking conspiracy, according to a press release from the office of U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling.

Eight individuals, Pedro Baez, 50, of Fitchburg; Anthony Baez, 31, of Fitchburg; Amanda Ford, 33, of Fitchburg; Monica Troche, 27, of Fitchburg; Branny Taveras, 37, of Fitchburg; Shastaalena Blair, 39, of Fitchburg; Jessica Hughes 28, of Gardner; and Valerie Lucier, 30, of Fitchburg, were previously arrested and charged in a November 2019 indictment, Lelling’s office said.

Pedro and Anthony Baez are both detained pending trial. The superseding indictment unsealed Friday charges eight additional individuals who were arrested: Pablo Vidarte Hernandez, 46, of Fitchburg; Adiangel Paredes, 33, of Leominster; Kevin Martinez, 41, of Fitchburg; Ricky Figueroa, 29, of Fitchburg; Pedro Villot-Santiago, 30, of Fitchburg; Ivan Torres, 30, of Fitchburg; Jonathan Villot, 29, of Fitchburg; and Hector Matos, 29, of Whitinsville, Lelling’s office said.

Two other individuals were also indicted and remain at large.

The November 2019 indictment charged the defendants with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, 400 grams or more of fentanyl, 100 grams or more of heroin, and 28 grams or more of cocaine base (crack). Anthony Baez and Monica Troche were also charged with five counts of distribution and possession with intent to distribute and distribution of fentanyl, heroin and cocaine.

The superseding indictment adds defendants Pablo Vidarte Hernandez, Adiagel Paredes, Kevin Martinez, Ricky Figueroa and Pedro Villot-Santiago to count one and alleges the conspiracy involved 1 kilogram or more of heroin, 280 grams or more of cocaine base, 400 grams or more of fentanyl, and 500 grams or more of cocaine, Lelling’s office said.

The superseding indictment charges Pedro Baez and Anthony Baez with distribution and possession with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl, 100 grams or more of heroin, and cocaine. In addition, the superseding indictment charges Ricky Figueroa, Pedro Villot-Santiago, Ivan Torres, Jonathan Villot, Hector Matos, and two others with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base and 500 grams or more of cocaine, according to Lelling’s office.

The charge of conspiracy to distribute 1 kilogram or more of heroin, 280 grams or more of cocaine base, 400 grams or more of fentanyl, and 500 grams or more of cocaine provides for a sentence of up to life in prison, a term of supervised release of at least three years and up to life, and a fine of up to $10 million. The charge of conspiracy to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base and 500 grams or more of cocaine provides for a sentence of up to life in prison, a term of supervised release of at least four years and up to life, and a fine of up to $10 million.

The other drug trafficking charges provide for a sentencing range of five years to a lifetime in prison, a term of supervised release of at least four years and up to life, and a fine of between $5 million to $10 million.

Due to a previous conviction of a qualifying drug trafficking offense, Pedro Baez faces enhanced mandatory minimum sentences. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors, according to Lelling’s office.

The Fitchburg and Lunenburg Police Departments, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Massachusetts State Police provided valuable assistance, according to Lelling’s office.

The operation was conducted by a multi-agency task force through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories – KTVZ

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories - KTVZ

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Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York are calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to create a new bipartisan committee focused on election integrity and schedule hearings to reassure Americans over a process President Donald Trump has repeatedly sought to undermine.

There is growing anxiety among Democrats, and some Republicans, that Trump will not only continue to sow doubt over the legitimacy of the coming election but throw the subsequent count into chaos by declaring victory before all the votes can be tallied, including the millions that will arrive by mail.

In a letter to McConnell, Sanders and Schumer quote back the Kentucky senator’s own words, in which he attested to the reliability of mail-in voting by citing its successes in Oregon, Washington and Colorado, which have been using the system for years.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the validity of mail-in voting, promoted conspiracy theories questioning election security, called on supporters to act as unsanctioned “poll watchers,” and suggested that the absence of a clear result by the evening of November 3 would in some way cast doubt on the eventual outcome. Key allies in powerful positions, like Attorney General Bill Barr, have followed suit. Barr has persisted in puffing up a debunked claim that ballots received by mail would somehow strip the sender of their privacy — ignoring well-established safeguards.

By escalating the matter now, Sanders and Schumer are responding to growing concern, in partisan and nonpartisan spaces, that Americans are not adequately prepared for the potential of a longer-than-usual wait for results or Trump’s willingness to short-circuit the democratic process if he smells defeat.

“Democrats and Republicans in Congress must come together to ensure that we have a free and fair election where every vote is cast and counted without intimidation,” Sanders told CNN, “where no one has to put his or her health in danger to cast a ballot, and where we have full confidence in the results.”

The proposed hearings would invite a cross-section of election officials from across the country to testify to the security and reliability of mail-in, early- and in-person voting — subjects on which Sanders and Schumer, again, referenced McConnell’s own words.

“Despite the clear security of our vote-by-mail system, some have continued to undermine it with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud,” they wrote. “As you have correctly said, people ‘can vote early, you can vote on Election Day, or you can drop it in the mail,’ and that voters should ‘not worry about your vote not counting.’”

The minority leader and Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, also want more detailed discussion about the fraught hours, or days, after the polls close and a real-time watch of the election horse race potentially swings from one candidate to another.

“We know a number of states may well be counting ballots for a period of time after Election Day, and that those votes may be determinative in this election,” the senators wrote to McConnell. “To avoid disinformation, conspiracy theories, and suspicion about results, we must understand the likely timeline for this process.”

The letter goes on to reference the recent war games-style preparations conducted by a group called the Transition Integrity Project, a bipartisan gathering of operatives and academics that made headlines when some of the outcomes of their exercises — including “both street-level violence and political impasse” — were reported on in late July.

“A bipartisan group of experts and officials have studied multiple scenarios where the outcome of the election was not immediately known. Some of these scenarios resulted in unrest and even violence,” Sanders and Schumer wrote, suggesting the Senate should elevate similar discussions and familiarize the public with the uncertainties ahead. “We would like to hear from the most knowledgeable people in the country as to how we can do everything possible to make sure that the election and the period afterward is secure and peaceful.”

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS supported Caputo, with a statement that called him a critical, integral part of the presidents coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was no immediate statement from the White House.

Attempts to reach Caputo were unsuccessful.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called on Azar to fire Caputo, accusing the spokesman of trying to interfere with CDC reports to the medical and scientific community, as well as the public at large. And Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Azar himself to resign, citing interference with the CDC as one example of what he termed the administration’s failures.

Officials at CDC have privately complained of recent efforts by political appointees at main HHS to try to edit or press for changes in the agency’s weekly MMWR publications, a go-to resource for public health professionals.

MMWR articles are technical, but they reveal telling details. One published earlier this year noted that while Trump’s travel restrictions dramatically reduced travel from China in February, nothing was being done at that time to restrict travel from Italy and Europe, where the coronavirus was spreading widely and rapidly. Analysis of virus samples from hard-hit New York in March suggested it was introduced there from Europe and other parts of the U.S., the CDC article reported.

Caputo is an unswerving Trump loyalist. His recent book, The Ukraine Hoax, claims the presidents phony impeachment was rooted in a vast conspiracy.

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS…

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS...

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My RSS Feedunwinona:

This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS and Polio narrative (among others), only we’re seeing it escalated to weeks and months instead of years or decades.

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