16 nabbed in Brattleboro drug sweep

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BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (WCAX) Sixteen people have been charged in a major three-day drug sweep in Brattleboro.

The operation happened last week. Police searched three homes and one hotel room, where they say they found 1,000 bags of heroin and 70 grams of cocaine base.

Out of the 16 people arrested, 12 have been charged in federal court with participating in drug trafficking crimes and two in state court with drug possession crimes.

Last year Vermont had 110 drug overdose deaths. Windham County had 24 of them-- the most of any county in the state. And as our Ike Bendavid reports, state officials are cracking down on drug-related crimes and they want criminals to know it.

Just around the block from downtown Brattleboro, Martha O'Connor loves her corner of Vermont. But a few houses down she noticed something unusual.

"There was a house down the street that had seven apartments and it just turned into a drug house," she said. "We heard gunshots, loud talking, fighting."

O'Conner says a recent police sweep of that building has changed the way this community feels.

"We thought it was wonderful. We thought it was time that this ends," she said.

And that wasn't the only building police raided. Tuesday, at the Brattleboro police department, federal, state and local law enforcement officers announced 16 arrests for drug trafficking. They say the bust took 1,000 bags of heroin off the streets.

"The message that we are trying to get out is that if you are selling at whatever level, whether you are the kingpin or the low-level street dealer, we are coming after you," Vt. Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Anderson said.

"There were 16 people who are no longer selling drugs in Brattleboro, who were back on Wednesday. So, yes, we believe we are making a difference," said Christina Nolan, the U.S. Attorney for Vermont.

Nolan acknowledges Brattleboro plays a big part in the drug pipeline that comes up Interstate 91. She says they come here because they can sell drugs here for more, make bigger profits. And she says Vermonters are playing a part.

"Individuals who may be addicted in Vermont, who house these dealers or run drugs to their customers and keeping some of the profits for themselves, are making it possible for these dealers to do business here," Nolan said.

And law enforcement says there is plenty of treatment to help people who want it.

"So the excuse that you can't get into treatment and that I am simply selling drugs to support my habit rings hollow to me," Anderson said.

Back at her house, O'Conner feels that this is not just an issue for Brattleboro.

"I think that this goes on at every community and neighbors have to band together to end it," she said.

Law enforcement says they hope their message from the sweep spreads across the state and region that agencies are working together to fight the war on drugs.

Those charged in federal court in the drug sweep include:

-Curtis Bunkley, 29, of Brattleboro. Charged with distribution of cocaine base, distribution of fentanyl and possession with intent to distribute heroin.

-Sarah Cassell, 32, of Brattleboro. Charged with distribution of heroin and cocaine base.

-Arthur Fisk, 28, of Brattleboro. Charged with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cocaine base.

-Daniel DeThomas, 37, of Hartford, Connecticut. Charged with distribution of cocaine base.

-Luis Duprey, 24, of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Charged with using a communication facility to facilitate the commission of a drug felony arising from his attempt to distribute 500 bags of heroin.

-Rachael Gauthier, 49, of Brattleboro. Charged with distribution of heroin and fentanyl.

-Rory Jackson, 35, of Queens, New York. Charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine base.

-Holly Magnuson, 49, of Brattleboro. Charged with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cocaine base.

-Robert Newton, 49, of Brattleboro. Charged with distribution of heroin.

-Jocelyn Pond, 29, of Brattleboro. Charged with distribution of fentanyl.

-Justine Pond, 29, of Brattleboro. Charged with distribution of fentanyl.

-Jaylen Pryor, 18, of Brattleboro. Charged with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cocaine base.

Those charged in state court include:

-Corey Archer, 38, of Brattleboro. Charged with cocaine possession.

-Lee Griffin, 36, of Brattleboro. Charged with cocaine possession.

Investigators say Cassell and Newton are currently fugitives. The others were arrested during the operation.