Vermont – On February 14, 2017, 26 individuals were arrested in Orleans County for various offenses related to heroin and opiate trafficking.

These arrests stem from an ongoing investigation established by the Vermont Drug Task Force in cooperation with the Vermont State Police, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Newport City Police Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont, the Orleans County State’s Attorney’s Office, and the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.  Over the course of seven months the Vermont Drug Task Force conducted multiple drug investigations focusing on heroin and opioids.  The investigations were in response to multiple opiate related overdoses in Orleans County.

In 2016 law enforcement reported 21 overdoses in Orleans County, 3 fatal and 18 non-fatal.  These numbers reflect only the overdoses reported to law enforcement as the majority of non-fatal opiate overdoses go unreported to authorities. These overdoses had a tremendous impact on the local community and the Vermont Drug Task Force is committed to conducting investigations to help combat the opioid crisis across the state.

The Vermont Drug Task Force has seen a significant increase in the number of heroin investigations conducted in 2016. Investigators conducted 360 heroin related investigations, an increase of approximately 32% for the same period in 2015 (242 cases).  In 2016, approximately 99 offenders throughout the state have been arrested for heroin/opiate related offenses.  These arrests are being prosecuted by both state and federal prosecutors.  Vermont is also seeing an increase in fentanyl laced heroin and pure fentanyl being sold as heroin.  Fentanyl is a dangerous drug that is 40-50 times stronger than heroin, poses a great threat to users and is responsible for multiple overdose deaths.

After conducting a total of 79 controlled purchases of illegal drugs, the Vermont Drug Task Force concluded its joint operation with the arrest of 26 defendants on 87 different charges; including Sale of Heroin, Sale of Crack Cocaine, and Aiding in the Commission of a Felony.  Six defendants were recently arrested on Sale of Heroin charges in conjunction with this investigation, and their names are included below.

The Vermont State Police, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Newport City Police Department, the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the United States Marshals Service (USMS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were instrumental in today’s operation.

Vermont Department of Public Safety Commissioner Thomas D. Anderson praised the collaboration of the these agencies for their hard work and painstaking investigation into this heroin/opioid distribution ring.  “This is an example of how cooperative law enforcement by federal, state, and local law enforcement can be a force multiplier in identifying, targeting, and arresting those who are selling this poison in our community,” said Commissioner Anderson.  “Our message to drug dealers is simple and clear:  Stop dealing, get into treatment or get arrested.”

Vermont State Police Director, Colonel Matthew T. Birmingham highlighted the very tedious and dangerous work that investigators undertook over the past several months. “The dedicated men and women of law enforcement should be very proud of the dangerous and often thankless work they do leading up to this operation today. They are the front lines in our collective efforts to stop the flow of dangerous drugs coming into Vermont.”

Homeland Security Investigations of Boston Special Agent in Charge Matthew Etre also spoke of the seriousness of this work.  “Opiate use and trafficking is a growing problem that affects every aspect of our communities,” said Etre. “HSI is committed to working with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to stop those that sell this highly addictive and destructive drug. They must be brought to justice before more lives are lost to this epidemic.”

Investigations into additional opiate distribution operations are still ongoing and further arrests are expected in the future.

Maj. Glenn Hall of the Vermont State Police said the opiate epidemic “continues to be the single most challenging issue for law enforcement in Vermont.”