FARMINGTON — A Massachusetts man is the fourth person charged in an interstate fentanyl distribution operation that came to light after the arrest of a Wilton man earlier this year.

Alberto Luis Cruz, believed to be 32, of Lawrence, Massachusetts was arrested Nov. 6 on a federal charge of conspiracy to distribute, and possess with intent to distribute, 40 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing the opioid fentanyl, according to U.S. District Court documents. 

Cruz was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in U.S. District Court in Portland.

Dennis Ayala, 55, and Andrea Hoffman, 35, both of Wilton, and Patricia “Mama” Pimentel, 24, of Lawrence, Massachusetts, were arrested on the same charge this year.

Ayala and Pimentel were also each charged on a federal count of possession with the intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl and aided and abetted such conduct last May. A conviction also carries a prison sentence of between five and 40 years.

The four are accused of engaging in the criminal activity from at least March 5 to Aug. 15. They face a minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison, if convicted.

The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency received information in March about distribution of suspected fentanyl in Maine, according to an affidavit filed in August by a special agent with U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in the Cruz case. Information included that large quantities of heroin were being supplied by persons known as “Papa” and “Mama” from the Lawrence, Massachusetts area. The two suppliers used couriers to distribute some of the heroin to Mainers, including Ayala, according to the affidavit.

On May 22, DEA learned Ayala was in the process of purchasing heroin from “Papa” and “Mama,” so investigators coordinated a traffic stop on Interstate 95 by Maine State Police. Inside the vehicle were two large bags containing 196.9 grams of fentanyl, which the lone occupant said was being delivered to Ayala, according to the affidavit.  

In July and Augusta, an undercover drug agent purchased a total of about 200 grams of suspected fentanyl from “Papa,” later identified as Cruz, at a Massachusetts store. Cruz was arrested.

Ayala, Hoffman and Pimental have pleaded not guilty.

Ayala, who was convicted of aggravated trafficking in illegal drugs in 1997 in Maine, has two pending cases in Franklin County.

He was indicted by a Franklin County grand jury June 28 on a charge of dealing crack cocaine from his home on Temple Road in Wilton in April. The charge stems from an investigation by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office into the fatal drug overdose of a Wyman Township man last spring.

Investigators received information leading them to Ayala’s residence, where police seized $6,628 in cash believed to be drug money, scales, crack cocaine and heroin, according to Franklin County Detective Stephen Charles’ affidavit.

Ayala posted $5,000 cash bail and was released April 20 from the Franklin County Detention Center. He pleaded not guilty to the state charges July 24.

After an unsuccessful attempt to do a bail check on him May 23, Maine State Police got a search warrant and found Ayala in his attic with marijuana plants, according to a court document. He was charged with felony unlawful possession of a drug that contained fentanyl powder and two misdemeanor charges of violating bail.

Before Ayala could post bail of $50,000 cash or $100,000 single surety, he was arrested on a federal warrant June 7.

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