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Two Charged in Drugs-for-Guns Case



Valley News Correspondent
Thursday, June 07, 2018

Burlington — Two men have been jailed after federal authorities used a police sting operation to break up what law enforcement officials said was a guns-for-drugs operation in central Vermont.

The case also involves the search for 17 firearms belonging to the father of a 23-year-old Strafford woman who disappeared for a week last month, court records show. Emma-Jayne Farina said she took two AR-style rifles from a property her father owns in Strafford and used them to pay off a $5,000 drug debt she incurred from her use of heroin and cocaine, an affidavit in U.S. District Court in Burlington says.

Dylan Avery, 20, of Barre, Vt., and William Lamagdelaine, 26, of Springfield, Mass., both are charged in federal court with being convicted felons in possession of firearms. Federal Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy has ordered both men be detained, though Avery has another hearing scheduled for today.

The Vermont Drug Task Force and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began an investigation last month into a group of narcotics traffickers who reportedly were trading drugs for firearms.

A state police detective assigned to the drug task force said a confidential informant reported that a man later identified as Lamagdelaine had transported more than 50 firearms between Vermont and Massachusetts, according to the affidavit.

After she took the two AR-style rifles from her father’s property, Farina said, she brought them to Avery’s residence at 78 Silver Circle in Barre, according to the ATF. She said she later returned to her father’s property with two individuals, took 10 more firearms and also brought them back to the Silver Circle residence, the ATF said. Authorities said Farina told them the guns were divided up between her, Avery, and Avery’s brother Caleb Avery.

Attempts to reach Christopher Farina, her father, on Thursday were unsuccessful.

The ATF then obtained a federal search warrant for the Avery residence, and it was executed on May 24 in conjunction with the task force, the U.S. Marshals Service, Vermont State Police and the Barre City and Montpelier police departments.

Avery and his parents, Meagan and John Kunkle, along with two juveniles were found in the home, and Caleb Avery was found in a camper parked in the driveway.

Police also seized 315 bags of heroin, court records show. A 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol also were found, along with several ledgers of firearms and firearm accessories with prices, and Dylan Avery’s cellphone, court records show.

It was unclear if anybody else would face federal or state charges. Whether Farina was staying in Barre voluntarily also remains unclear. When she was missing in May, police said in a news release that “family and friends have received communication indicating she may be in danger.”

Attempts to reach Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault on Thursday were unsuccessful.

Most of the missing items were found behind the home, according to court records. Five long firearms were found wrapped — four in plastic and one in a T-shirt — and hidden in the woods behind the house, the ATF said. They included two 12-gauge shotguns, a 7.62 AK-style rifle and a .223 AR-style rifle.

Beside those weapons was a large plastic case containing a 9 mm pistol, a .45-caliber pistol, four large knives, 14 assorted rifle and pistol magazines, 218 rounds of assorted ammunition, 27 shells for a 12-gauge shotgun in a bandolier, 10 rounds of ammunition, holsters, a pistol case and firearm accessories.

Dylan Avery told police that Lamagdelaine and Farina had been staying at his residence, ATF Special Agent Eric Brimo said in court papers.

According to the ATF, Avery reported he also told Farina to get the guns out of the house because he was a convicted felon. Court records show he has felony criminal convictions for drugs and destroying evidence, both in August 2016 in New Hampshire.

Avery said Lamagdelaine had gone back to Springfield, Mass., a few days earlier with four pistols, but was unsure of the exact make or model, Brimo said in court papers.

Avery reported he began using heroin at age 13 and that he now uses 200 to 300 bags a day, Brimo said.

Authorities arrested Lamagdelaine as he arrived at the Berlin (Vt.) Mall parking lot on Tuesday afternoon and met an undercover ATF agent posing as somebody willing to trade a gun for drugs, court records show. The deal, set up by phone over several days, involved 2 grams of crack cocaine that Lamagdelaine would provide for a .40-caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol on Tuesday afternoon, the ATF said in court papers.

Lamagdelaine said he would be with his “cousin and his girl,” court records show. About 12:45 p.m., a car pulled up next to the undercover agent, who was told to get into the backseat with Lamagdelaine, the ATF said. During the deal, the ATF said, Lamagdelaine said he would be interested in future trades or could sell drugs to the undercover agent.

As the deal was completed, law enforcement moved in and arrested Lamagdelaine. Two other people in the car also were taken to the Barre City Police Department.

In addition to the 1.25-gram cocaine drug package Lamagdelaine delivered, the ATF said, another 2.17 grams were found in another package.

Lamagdelaine told investigators the gun actually was destined for somebody else, the affidavit said. Lamagdelaine is prohibited from possessing a firearm because he has a lengthy criminal record with multiple felony convictions in Massachusetts, including assault with a dangerous weapon and breaking and entering in the daytime with intent to commit a felony, the ATF said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugenia A. P. Cowles asked for detention of Lamagdelaine because of the serious nature of the charge, the lack of ties to Vermont and his criminal history.

She said she feared he would fail to appear for trial and was a danger to the community.

Conroy, the federal magistrate judge, agreed, noting that the weight of the evidence appeared strong and that Lamagdelaine had a lack of stable employment, a history of alcohol or substance abuse and prior violations of probation, parole or supervised release and failure to appear in court as directed.

Mike Donoghue can be reached at vermontnewsfirst@gmail.com.