BOSTON (WWLP) – A Salem man was sentenced to prison guilty of possessing firearms, including an automatic weapon while serving in a security role for a drug trafficking organization.
According to the Justice Department in Boston, 34-year-old Ernest Johnson a/k/a “Yo Pesci,” a/k/a “Mr. Live Mr. Drive,” was sentenced to 90 months in prison and three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to one count of being a felon in possession of firearm and ammunition.
He was involved in the distribution of over 500,000 counterfeit fentanyl pills made using high-volume pill presses and showcased and promoted violence on social media. Johnson was arrested and charged in June 2021 along with co-conspirators Vincent Caruso, Laurie Caruso and Nicole Benton – all of whom pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy.
Johnson was a member of a large drug trafficking organization operated by Vincent Caruso, a self-admitted Crip gang member. Johnson served in a security role as Vincent Caruso’s driver personal assistant. He possessed and used a variety of firearms (including an AR-15; a fully automatic Glock 17; multiple large caliber revolvers; and a number of pistols equipped with large-capacity magazines) to threaten rival drug dealers.
During the investigation, it was determined that Johnson was involved in multiple violent offenses committed on behalf of the drug trafficking organization, including an attempted armed robbery in May 2021.
Johnson also used social media to post and message photos and videos that showcased the rug trafficking organization’s arsenal of firearms, fentanyl pills, cash, and high-end jewelry. Based on multiple prior felony convictions, Johnson was prohibited from lawfully possessing firearms.
“We can only hope that the ‘Yo Pesci’ show has reached its final episode. Mr. Johnson was an active participant in a violent drug enterprise that coordinated armed robberies, engaged in violent shootings and pumped more than 500,000 deadly fentanyl pills onto our streets. He not only unlawfully possessed a stockpile of dangerous firearms, including a machine gun and large capacity magazines, but Mr. Johnson brazenly flaunted his arsenal through livestream videos,” said First Assistant United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy. “His behavior, both on and off social media, promoted violence and a complete disregard for the rule of law. His days as social media influencer for criminal enterprises have ended. Our office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to put down violent criminal organizations and do everything in our power to keep our communities safe.”
“Today, convicted felon Ernest Johnson learned his fate for brandishing numerous firearms he wasn’t allowed to possess in support of an extremely violent drug trafficking enterprise that dealt deadly fentanyl and orchestrated numerous shootings and armed robberies, using an arsenal of firearms, including machine guns,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “The FBI’s North Shore Gang Task Force will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify, investigate, and eliminate violent criminal organizations like the one Johnson belonged to that are responsible for inflicting serious harm on our communities.”
“Armed violent drug dealers are wreaking havoc in our communities, and using fentanyl in counterfeit prescriptions is a deadly combination. ATF will continue to work alongside our OCDETF partners to become a force multiplier in stopping these organizations from devastating our neighborhoods,” said James Ferguson, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Boston Division.