NEW BEDFORD — Two leaders of a massive fentanyl trafficking ring in the New Bedford area that was taken down after a large-scale operation were sentenced to serve time in state prison after pleading guilty to drugs charges in September.

The Bristol County District Attorney's Office said Orlando Badillo, 42, and his top lieutenant Pedro Cruz, 41, both of New Bedford, were caught more than two years ago after a multi-agency investigation that took five kilograms of fentanyl off the street.

Badillo, the leader of the drug ring, will serve eight to ten years in state prison and two years of supervised probation after pleading guilty on Sept. 24 to trafficking over 100 grams of fentanyl and trafficking over 36 grams of fentanyl along with conspiracy to violate the drug laws.

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Cruz, one of Badillo's top lieutenants and distributors, will serve five and a half to eight years in prison and was ordered to forfeit $3,070 that he illegally obtained from selling drugs.

Cruz pleaded guilty on Sept. 30 to possession with intent to distribute fentanyl,  possession with intent to distribute a class D drug and conspiracy to violate the drug laws.

'Operation Ghost' began in June 2018, when a Dartmouth Police detective learned that Badillo was running a large-scale fentanyl drug trafficking organization in the greater New Bedford area.

The detective worked with state troopers assigned to the D.A.'s office to investigate the drug trafficking ring.

As the operation grew, other law enforcement agencies including the DEA, Homeland Security, the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, New Bedford Police and others joined, creating a large task force.

They used wiretapping to listen in on cell phone conversations and text messages between the top members of the organization.

During the investigation, authorities learned about the people involved in the ring and their roles, as well as the person delivering large amounts of raw fentanyl to the group.

On March 15, 2019, Cruz sold fentanyl to a known New Bedford drug dealer at his home.

Surveillance units set up and observed the drug deal, as well as another the next day.

Police later searched Cruz’s home, seizing 8.9 grams of fentanyl, 89.8 grams of marijuana and $3,070 in cash thought to be the proceeds from drug sales.

After almost one year of investigating the drug ring, on April 30, 2019, task force members conducted 11 searches and took out 13 arrest warrants in a massive bust.

During the drugs bust police seized around 5 kilograms of fentanyl, 13 grams of crack cocaine, 35 grams of methamphetamine, an illegal large capacity firearm, and $112,333.00 in cash thought to be the proceeds of drug sales.

“I’m very pleased these defendants were held accountable for running a large scale fentanyl distribution ring out of the city of New Bedford," said Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn.

"Both defendants had significant criminal records and were fueling the drug habits of many people in New Bedford and surrounding communities,” he added.

“I want to thank the investigators from the various agencies involved for their efforts and perseverance in this case.”

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