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Massachusetts man convicted of possession with intent to distribute after former Dartmouth woman found dead



BOSTON – A Natick man was convicted this week following a six-day jury trial in connection with fentanyl trafficking. During a search of the defendant’s apartment the body of a missing 24-year-old woman who had died of a drug overdose was discovered.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Justice, 29-year-old Rafael Ashworth was convicted of one count of possession with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl and one count of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. U.S. Senior District Court Judge William G. Young scheduled sentencing for April 30, 2024. Ashworth was indicted by a federal grand jury in December 2019 and subsequently charged in a superseding indictment in February 2021. He has remained in custody since his arrest in November 2019.

“The overwhelming overdose numbers associated with the opioid epidemic can blur the human devastation that is involved in every life cut short. This prosecution provided a vivid reminder of how deadly fentanyl is and the trail of broken hearts that are intertwined with overdose deaths,” said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy. “This defendant will now be held accountable for his role in pumping deadly narcotics onto our streets.”

“Massachusetts is in the midst of a devastating opioid crisis, as deaths from fentanyl soar. The DEA will continue to use every resource available to find drug traffickers, like Mr. Ashworth, who are contributing to the crisis,” said Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Field Division. “DEA’s top priority is combatting the opioid epidemic by working with our local, county, state and federal partners to bring to justice anyone who distributes this poison. Illegal drug distribution ravages the foundations of our communities so every time we take fentanyl off the streets, lives are saved.”

Police found Nicole Fusaro in Ashworth’s apartment after receiving a report of an overdose death. Approximately 100 grams of a substance containing fentanyl, methamphetamine and heroin, counterfeit Xanax pills containing etizolam, an illegal benzodiazepine, a large metal press used for pressing counterfeit narcotic pills, kilograms of pill-making material and other paraphernalia associated with drug packaging and distribution were also located in the apartment.

The charge of possession with intent to distribute more than 40 grams of fentanyl carries 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 $5 million. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.

Fusaro was born in Providence, RI and lived in Dartmouth and Acushnet before moving to the Boston area.

Acting U.S. Attorney Levy and DEA SAC Boyle made the announcement. Special assistance was provided by the Natick Police Department and the Massachusetts State Police. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leah Foley and Stephen Hassink of the Narcotics & Money Laundering Unit are prosecuting the case.

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