Prosecutor says fentanyl bust ‘largest’ he remembers in Windsor County

  • Green

  • Barry

  • Barbera

Published: 2/21/2019 10:16:03 PM
Modified: 2/21/2019 10:16:14 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A traffic stop on Interstate 91 on Tuesday in Hartland resulted in three arrests and what a prosecutor calls the largest bust involving fentanyl that he’s seen in Windsor County.

“For fentanyl, the threshold for a trafficking charge is 70 milligrams,” Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill said on Wednesday. He estimated the amount of drugs seized in this case at almost 1,000 times that level.

“This is the largest shipment that tested positive for fentanyl that I remember in Windsor County,” he said.

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that has been linked to scores of lethal overdoses in Vermont and the rest of the U.S.

According to court records, police seized 2,970 baggies containing a mixture of heroin and fentanyl. Cahill estimated the street value at $10 per baggie, or $29,700.

Some of the baggies were stamped “Tony the Tiger” and “Frosted Flakes,” which was “a brand found at the scene of a nonfatal overdose approximately two weeks prior,” court records stated.

Cahill said testing has not yet revealed the ratio of heroin to fentanyl in the baggies.

“Based on the affidavit, this is a case that could have been charged as either fentanyl trafficking or heroin trafficking, you just had to make the choice,” he said. “We could theoretically charge both, but the defendants can’t be punished for both.”

Vermont State Police arrested three suspects, all from Royalton, after pulling over a vehicle they were in at Exit 9 on Interstate 91 in Hartland late Tuesday afternoon.

The driver, Randall Green, 54, and front-seat passenger John Barbera, 51, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday afternoon in Windsor County Superior criminal court to charges of trafficking fentanyl and being habitual offenders, and enhancement for repeat offenders.

Barbera has previous felony convictions for sexual assault, aggravated domestic assault and burglary, while Green has a criminal record that includes aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and arson, according to court records.

Attorneys for both men said in court that their clients’ past convictions were quite old, with Barbera’s last felony conviction occurring in 2006 and Green’s in 1994.

Both men were ordered held without bail on the charges that could send them to jail for life.

Shannon Barry, 31, who was in the back seat of the car, pleaded not guilty to a fentanyl trafficking charge and was held for lack of $5,000 bail. She faces up to 30 years behind bars, if convicted.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the charges, Vermont State Police Trooper Jeremy Lyon wrote that he pulled the vehicle over after initially spotting it while he was running radar on I-91 in Windsor.

It was a car, the trooper wrote, that had been seen often on Railroad Street in Royalton that he was “familiar with” from “various tips and information provided to the Royalton Barracks regarding drug sales from that residence.”

He continued to follow the vehicle, which would speed up and slow down between 60 and 70 mph in a 65 mph zone, the affidavit stated. He pulled the vehicle over after it turned onto the off-ramp at Exit 9.

“I advised the occupants that I was stopping them for speeding up and slowing down as well as traveling over the speed limit at a speed of approximately 70 mph,” Lyon wrote. “I also pointed out the handicap placard and air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror as possible windshield obstructions.”

A police dog was called to the scene and “alerted” on possible drugs in the vehicle, the affidavit stated.

“I told Green the K9 had indicated to the vehicle for the presence of narcotics and asked him if there was anything in the vehicle I should know about,” Lyon wrote. “Green stared forward and was unable to say anything other than ‘he’s a dog.’ ”

After Green consented, the trooper wrote, police searched the vehicle.

“Green eventually told me ‘two of them’ are just accomplices, and he was afraid to say more because he didn’t want to be accused of being a rat,” the trooper wrote.

Inside a backpack in the back seat, the trooper wrote, police found the nearly 3,000 baggies containing a mixture of heroin and fentanyl.

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