A Hartford gangster who dominated drug sales in the city’s Frog Hollow section was given an unusually stiff 18-year sentence on drug and gun charges Thursday in federal court.
Ricardo “Rick the Ruler” Reyes, 41, who the government contends is a high-ranking member of Los Solidos, made a long, rambling and ultimately futile plea to the court, saying he had effectively grown out of crime. He asked for a sentence that freed him at a reasonably young age, so that he could “go legit,” and open his dream business — a store selling religious items.
Judge Michael P. Shea said Reyes’ involvement in selling a potentially lethal heroin-fentanyl mix and dealing in illegal guns made him a threat to public safety. And Shea said Reyes failed to reform after his last release from prison — or any of the earlier releases that have kept him behind bars for a significant portion of his adult life.
“I’m asking you to please to look at my case, look at my criminal history,” Reyes said. “I got to stop sometime. I’ll be honest with you, when I came out last time, I was going to take one more run to get some money to go legit. Could I have got a job at McDonalds? Yes, I could have got a job at McDonalds. But I would have had to work for five years to get the money.”
Reyes said he wasn’t actually using guns to shoot people, but was buying them. Testimony and other evidence presented in court shows that Reyes was allowing a heroin addicted customer with a clean record and a firearms license to pay off his bill by buying guns for him and, occasionally, his friends.
Dozens of those guns obtained by the straw purchaser ended up scattered around Hartford, in several cases in the hands of violent drug dealers, one of whom was captured on video shooting someone on the face.
Reyes explained to the judge that an examination of his criminal history reveals no evidence that he has ever used a gun in a crime of violence. Rather he said, as a drug dealer, he needed a weapon for protection.
“I wasn’t walking up and down the street every day with a gun,” Reyes said. “I got to defend myself. I’m going to let some schmuck come up and steal what is in my pocket?”
With regard to fentanyl — a powerful, highly addictive synthetic opioid responsible for thousands of overdoses since drug dealers began mixing it with heroin — Reyes said he was not aware there was any cut into the heroin he sold.
Reyes was picked up in 2019 with 14 associates following a long investigation into the group’s drug and gun sales in the Frog Hollow area. Among other things, federal task force officers said they found 3,500 bags of fentanyl in a gang stash house.
At the time of the arrest, Reyes had posted a bond and was free while awaiting prosecution on charges from 2018, when he was found carrying 250 bags of a heroin-fentanyl mix.
The 18-year sentence is almost twice as long as those handed down routinely in federal court in drug and gun cases. But Reyes actually got a break. Because of his extensive criminal history and his gang leadership role he was facing at least 20 years under sentencing used in federal court.