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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
District of Vermont
Nikolas Kerest, United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Connecticut Man Sentenced to 110 Months for Firearm and Drug Trafficking Offenses

BURLINGTON, Vt. — U.S. Attorney’s Office stated that, on March 4, Rafael Ortiz, 47, of Hartford, Connecticut, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge William K. Sessions III to 110 months in prison and three years of supervised release following his guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, heroin and cocaine base and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

According to court records, Ortiz was arrested in May 2021 in Lyndonville on two State of Vermont arrest warrants, for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and eluding a police officer. While leading Vermont State Police (“VSP”) officers on a foot chase, Ortiz discarded from his waistband a Sig Sauer 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistol with a defaced serial number and loaded with 14 rounds of ammunition. Ortiz continued to flee and refused to comply with commands, until VSP used a Taser to incapacitate him and effect the arrest. A small meat cleaver and a dagger-style knife, along with approximately $1500, were recovered from Ortiz’s person. Law enforcement located the discarded firearm and, from Ortiz’s backpack, recovered approximately 38 grams of cocaine base, 13 grams of fentanyl analogue fluorofentanyl, approximately 11 grams of fentanyl and a quantity of heroin mixed with the fluorofentanyl.

U.S. Attorney Nikolas P. Kerest commended the efforts of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Vermont State Police; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the investigation and prosecution of Ortiz.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Corinne Smith, Nicole Cate, John Boscia and Jeff Davis handled the prosecution of Ortiz. Mark A. Kaplan, Esq., represented Ortiz.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department of Justice launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities and measuring the results. For more information about Project Safe Neighborhoods, please visit


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