16 arrested in NEK drug sweep

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ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (WCAX) Sixteen people are facing federal charges after a drug trafficking sweep in the Northeast Kingdom.

"To put it in drug trafficking lingo -- 'It is hot everywhere in Vermont,'" said U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan, who was flanked Thursday by local, state and federal authorities. She said they have a warning for dealers who think they can go undetected in rural areas of the state. "You are simply wrong."

Sixteen people, mostly from the St. Johnsbury and Newport area, now face charges connected to drug trafficking.

St. Johnsbury Police Chief Tim Page says he doesn't want his residents exposed to drugs like heroin, fentanyl and crack cocaine. "They don't care what it does, they're in it for profit and that's it. And those are the people that we are focused on removing from the streets," he said.

Federal Homeland Security investigators say most of the fentanyl funneling into the U.S. comes from the dark web. In today's world, you don't need a drug connection on the street anymore, all you need is a connection to the internet," said DHS's Jason Molina.

He says they have specially trained agents to crack down on dark web purchases and are training Vermont cops to do the same next week. "We look to disrupt these organizations at every point in the supply chain," Molina said.

Officials say there were 110 overdose deaths in Vermont last year. They say around 7,000 are in drug treatment for an opiate addiction and that there are an estimated 12,000 who are not ready or willing to go into treatment.

Mary Foster of St. Johnsbury says she sees the problem all the time. "You see where cars are, you see where people are," she said. But says she proud of the police effort to help the NEK. "They have stepped up and done more than we ever expected."

Those charged with drug-related crimes include:

Jen Thompson, 39 Newport
Juliana Graves, 49, Newport
Elijah Wheeler-Watson, 23 Clinton, Mass.
Adis Djozo, 26 Essex Junction
Alicia Parenteau, 36, Newport
Chakeshia Watts, 40, St. Johnsbury
Jerry Watts, 62, St. Johnsbury
Randy Devoid, 50, St. Johnsbury
Shaquille Carter, 26, New York, NY.
Christina Thompson, 42, Lyndonville
Morgan Cleveland, 39, Newport
Soloman Little, 26, St. Johnsbury
Christopher McacKay, 52, St. Johnsbury
Mark Houston, 30, St. Johnsbury
Michael Barry, 26, St. Johnsbury
Michelle Churchill, 34, St. Johnsbury