(Editor’s Note: This story was compiled from a press release issued this week by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston.)
A Saugus man was among two people indicted recently by a federal grand jury in Boston in connection with a drug conspiracy involving tens of thousands of counterfeit pills containing methamphetamine and fentanyl. Aaron Lenardis, 36, of Saugus, and Charles Bates, 31, of Reading, were indicted on one count each of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and 40 grams or more of fentanyl, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston. Lenardis was also indicted on an additional count of possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and 40 grams or more of fentanyl and one count of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.
Bates and Lenardis were initially charged by complaint in October 2022. According to the charging documents, in August 2022, an investigation began into Bates after he ordered 50 kilograms of an orange binding agent commonly used to make counterfeit Adderall pills, which he was allegedly observed picking up at a UPS store in Boston.
Court filings allege that Bates exchanged text messages with drug customers and associates in which he spoke about pills that are “made to order,” described being physically present at the place where the pills were made and “watching the guy work so no corners have been cut.” It is also alleged that Bates drafted recipes for counterfeit pills that he kept on his phone or sent to others. It is alleged that the offense involved at least 136,000 counterfeit pills containing methamphetamine, equivalent to approximately 40 kilograms of such pills.
It is further alleged that after the pill press broke, Bates traveled to Pawtucket, R.I., to obtain a replacement. Bates was allegedly observed transporting a large, heavy item that appeared to be a pill press to Lenardis’ residence in Saugus.
According to court documents, a search of Lenardis’ residence in Saugus on Oct. 25, 2022, resulted in the seizure of the following: an industrial pill press, 14 firearms, including a Glock outfitted to operate as a machine gun, at least 1.85 kilograms of pills and powder containing methamphetamine, at least 87.6 grams of pills and powder containing fentanyl, and “M30” stamps commonly used to manufacture counterfeit pills.
The charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine each provide for a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison, at least five years of supervised release and a fine of up to $10 million. The charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl each provide for a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and up to 40 years in prison, at least four years of supervised release and a fine of up to $8 million. The charge of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins and the Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New England Field Division, Brian D. Boyle, made the announcement on Monday (Feb. 27).