Prosecutor: Addiction fuels guns-for-drugs pipeline into Vermont

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) A drug pipeline heading north into Vermont and the guns used to pay for them hitting the streets in Boston. Our Christina Guessferd is following the flow of firearms and cocaine in and out of the area.

John Guerrero and Darwin Medina

Federal prosecutor Christina Nolan tells WCAX News this is a serious problem fueled by addiction and desperation. She helped us connect the dots.

"When they were in Vermont dealing crack cocaine, that was their main commodity. They were bragging, at times, both men, about their gang affiliations," Nolan said.

Those Boston men, John Guerrero and Darwin Medina, are accused of exchanging drugs for firearms in Franklin County between September 2017 and March 2018. Allegedly, the dealers regularly brought powder cocaine from Boston, turned it into crack in Swanton and then sold it to customers there in exchange for firearms.

"It's very common, as in this case, to see people with addiction who are drug customers, going and committing this crime and acquiring guns for their dealers, going into a gun store and saying they're really buying it when they never were and they were always going to give it to their dealer," Nolan said.

That act of lying and buying is what's known as straw purchasing. In this case, all five of the accused gun buyers are from St. Albans. They got busted in September.

Nolan says her office has seen this before-- many times. She says guns and violence go hand in hand with the drug trade and Vermont has an obvious drug problem.

"That is one of the biggest criminal justice challenges we face," Nolan said. "In this case, you had them obliterating the serial numbers on the guns so they couldn't be traced and some of them were later recovered in Boston crime scenes."

Nolan says she's been working with Massachusetts officials, handling these cases as regional problems.

"The drug traffickers and gun traffickers don't care where the state boundary is," Nolan said. "They view it as a business and part of the business model is you buy the drugs more cheaply in places like Massachusetts or Boston, for example, and you sell them for more in Vermont."

If they are convicted, Guerrero and Darwin will face a minimum of 15 years in jail and a maximum of life in prison.

The five Vermonters are Tyson Wells, Dara Bessette, Sierra Lacoste, Laci Baker and Megan West. If convicted, they each face up to 10 years behind bars.