U.S. Attorney Eric Miller speaks at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
U.S. Attorney Eric Miller announced Tuesday that three investigations into drug trafficking across Vermont had led to the arrests of 12 people and the confiscation of $200,000 worth of heroin.
During a press conference attended by Gov. Peter Shumlin and a phalanx of state and federal law enforcement officers, Miller said the cases, while not directly connected, represent inroads in the fight against heroin.
"None of us up here are declaring victory," Miller said. "We all have a lot more work to do."
In court papers, prosecutors alleged that the biggest operation, based in Caledonia County, was run by a New Jersey man, Miguel Zayas, and his partner, Lamar Carter of Brattleboro.
Police also arrested six Vermont "facilitators" from the St. Johnsbury area who helped the men sell heroin and cocaine since at least early 2014, according to court documents.
The Vermont Drug Task Force, the Vermont State Police and the FBI conducted undercover drug buys to bring down the ring.
“I still think we tend to view heroin as a problem that has been injected into this state by outsiders, but that’s only part of the picture,” Miller said. “Vermonters aid and abet the trafficking of heroin when they house drug dealers, when they introduce drug dealers to their customers and when they help move those drugs themselves."
A Rutland man, Troy Barnes, was also arrested. Police said they found half a pound of heroin in his home during a raid in August. And in the third case, several people were arrested for trafficking heroin in the South Burlington and St. Albans areas.
Heroin prosecutions have risen in U.S. District Court this year, Miller said. Federal prosecutors charged 87 defendants with heroin-related crimes in the first eight months of the year, compared with 56 defendants in the same time frame last year.
The U.S. Attorney's Office has dedicated four prosecutors, each focusing on a different quadrant of the state, to heroin cases.