Wednesday, June 12, 2024

A July 2, 2020, shooting was identified as taking place in a Harvard Street parking lot in Cambridge’ Port neighborhood. (Image: Google)

A federal jury has convicted Armani Minier-Tejada, 23, in an investigation targeting drug trafficking and gang violence that included a shocking shooting incident in Cambridge in July 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Friday.

Minier-Tejada, of Salem, also known as “Shotz” and “Gustavo,” served as a supplier for several large-scale drug dealers in Maine and procured weapons for gang members – and was himself a member of a street gang known as the Tiny Rascal Gangsters, prosecutors said. Despite its name, TRG is one of the largest and most violent criminal street gangs in the country and is involved in street-level distribution of powdered cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy and methamphetamine, prosecutors said, with members known for their involvement in gun violence, including drive-by shootings of residences of rival gang members.

Trial evidence proved Minier-Tejada’s participation in six shootings including one on July 2, 2020, at 110 Harvard St., in Cambridge’s Port neighborhood, prosecutors said.

In that incident, Minier-Tejada and Jaiir Coleman – who on Feb. 11, 2022, pleaded guilty to taking part in shootings in Cambridge, Somerville and Chelsea – showed up to a parking lot by the Washington Elms housing project because a video was being live-streamed there accusing the duo of cooperating with law enforcement.

They arrived with firearms – including a machine gun – and together fired at least 30 rounds into a large crowd of people in the parking lot, police said. Coleman admitted to firing the machine gun. Still, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives special agent in charge blasted Minier-Tejada on Friday for the “cavalier act of shooting a machine gun into an open public area.”

The investigation began in 2020 in “direct response to an increasing number of shootings” in the area by street gangs “whose violence is fueled by drug distribution,” prosecutors said Friday in a press release.

Cambridge police commissioner Christine Elow said she was grateful for the teamwork addressing gun violence and drug trafficking “that can cause great harm and trauma to our communities.”

Minier-Tejada, who is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 5 and faces a sentence of at least 40 years in prison, is the last of 18 defendants in an investigation of a large-scale drug trafficking conspiracy that made and distributed more than 10 kilograms each of fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine in Boston, the North Shore and Maine, prosecutors said.

Others convicted over the past three years included Malden drug trafficker Phillips Charles, known as “Phon C”; methamphetamine supplier and TRG leader David Oth, known as “Baby Bouncer”; and Vincent Caruso, known as “Fatz” – and his mother, Laurie Caruso.

“This case should send a clear and unequivocal message to those who chose to pump fentanyl and other deadly drugs into our streets and brazenly brandish highly dangerous firearms to protect their trade – you will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We will spare no resources working with our federal, state and local partners to make sure that people who terrorize their communities and who show a callous disregard for human life will spend decades behind bars,” said acting U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy.

The conviction of Minier-Tejada was for one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl, 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, cocaine and other controlled substances; one count of conspiring to possess, use and carry firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking conspiracy; and one count of possessing a machine gun in furtherance of a drug trafficking conspiracy.