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November 21, 2013

2 nabbed in illegal surgery scheme

Feds say pair arrested in Peabody were altering people's fingerprints

PEABODY — Federal agents arrested two people in Peabody over the weekend who they say have been surgically altering people’s fingerprints to elude detection by law enforcement.

Danilo Montero Ramirez, 61, and Teresa Araujo Martinez, 40, were arrested by federal agents Saturday in an apartment at 156 Shore Drive, where they had arranged to meet a patient.

Authorities say the pair charged people thousands of dollars to alter their fingertips so they could not be connected to past crimes or deportations. Ramirez, a doctor in the Dominican Republic, did the procedures, and Martinez served as his assistant, according to court documents.

The pair are charged with distributing drugs — the oxycodone and other pain medications given to their patients — as well as “conspiring to harbor illegal aliens.”

“Homeland Security Investigations special agents arrested the pair (Martinez and Ramirez) on the current federal charges without incident Saturday morning in Peabody,” said Khaalid Walls, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. “Our investigative efforts were supported by the Massachusetts State Police, the Bristol and Essex County Sheriffs’ Departments and the Peabody Police Department. The investigation will continue.”

Martinez and Ramirez appeared in federal court in Boston on Monday. The duo remain in the custody of U.S. Marshals and have a court hearing set for Nov. 25 in Boston, according to court filings.

They both have court-appointed lawyers, who could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Peabody police were on the scene Saturday morning to assist while federal agents made the arrest. Authorities seized a variety of prescription medications (more than 200 pills) and surgical paraphernalia the pair had set up in the apartment, including scalpels, syringes, surgical gloves and bandages.

After the arrest, Ramirez told investigators he has altered the fingertips of “five to six individuals so that they could avoid detection while living in the United States,” according to court documents. He altered the fingertips of two people in the Boston area — court documents do not specify where — in 2012, as well as the fingertips of Martinez, his assistant.

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