Drug trafficker who participated in the delivery of thousands of fentanyl pills sentenced to federal prison


Date: April 8, 2024

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

Providence, RI — A Lawrence, MA, resident arrested in May 2021 by members of the DEA Rhode Island Drug Task Force after he participated in deliveries of significant quantities of fentanyl-laced pills in Pawtucket, RI, and Dorchester, MA, has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison, announced United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.

Roberto Anibal Nieves Zayas pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Providence on January 20, 2022, to a charge of conspiracy to distribute and possess fentanyl with the intent to distribute. He was sentenced on April 4, 2024, by U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith to 84 months of incarceration to be followed by 3 years of federal supervised release.

According to charging documents and information presented to the court, in April and May 2021, the DEA Rhode Island Drug Task Force arranged for deliveries of large quantities of fentanyl-laced pills. On April 29, Nieves Zayas delivered 1,000 fentanyl pills in exchange for $5,000 in cash. The delivery occurred in a parking lot of a Pawtucket restaurant by one of two men who arrived in a car bearing Massachusetts license plates. Task Force members watched as the delivery was made and quickly seized the drugs, while other agents followed the vehicle to an apartment complex in Lawrence, MA.

On May 24, 2021, the DEA arranged to purchase 25,000 fentanyl pills for $125,000. Two days later, as the delivery of the pills was taking place inside a passenger van in a parking lot of a Dorchester, MA, restaurant, DEA Rhode Island Task Force agents moved in and seized a large plastic garbage bag containing 3.4 kilograms of fentanyl pills. Nieves Zayas and a co-defendant were arrested.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stacey A. Erickson.

The Rhode Island DEA Drug Task Force is comprised of personnel from the DEA; Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (CI); Rhode Island State Police; Cranston Police Department; Middletown Police Department; Newport Police Department; Pawtucket Police Department; Providence Police Department; Warwick Police Department; Woonsocket Police Department; and Amtrak Police.

CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft and more. CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, obtaining a more than a 90 percent federal conviction rate. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 12 attaché posts abroad.