All was quiet mid-morning Tuesday, at Averill Condominiums in Waterville. Abby Witham was enjoying some fresh air from her second-floor balcony. Cabbie Keith Young was dropping off a regular customer.
Then, the silence was broken.
At about 10 a.m., nearly a dozen law enforcement officers sprang out of parked cars and the nearby woods with guns drawn.
Patrick Hanson, 21, of 35 Mathews Ave., was arrested and charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone and 500 grams or more of cocaine.
In all, 10 people were arrested Tuesday in central Maine on federal drug conspiracy charges, and six other people — whose identities were being withheld by authorities — also face arrest.
Federal Drug Enforcement Agency officers, along with state and local authorities, made the arrests in Waterville and other central Maine locations, including some jails, on several charges alleging drug possession and distribution.
Maurice McCray, 31, of Waterville, faces six charges — the most of those rounded up by authorities — alleging that he distributed oxycodone and cocaine.
At the Averill Condominiums, Young, 48, who drives for P.T. Cab, had picked up Hanson, a regular customer, and drove him to the condos.
“All of a sudden, all I could see were guns,” he said. “They were coming from everywhere. I had guns in back of me, guns on the sides of me and guns in front of me. I said, ‘I’m not going nowhere!'”Witham, 21, who was on the balcony with her 2-year-old daughter, didn’t know what would happen when the police burst out of the woods. The development is home to many families and is normally peaceful, she said.
“I was pretty scared,” she said. “I was slowly backing inside the house.”
The arrests stemmed from a multi-agency investigation, which resulted in 16 indictments last week by a federal grand jury in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine in Bangor on May 17 and sealed until Tuesday’s arrests.
Five of those arrested were Waterville residents: McCray; Tara Pelletier, 31; Rodney Lacroix, 23; Justin Lacroix, 25; Jesse Jones, 24; and Hanson. Also arrested were Joshua Blodgett, 21, of Skowhegan; Saul Hernandez, 24, of Augusta; Benjamin Lemieux, 29, of Winslow; and Cassandra Ware, 22, of Albion.
Several of the drug charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of five years imprisonment and a maximum of 40 years.
Some of the documents filed in the case still bear a “secret” stamp. Six names are blacked out on the indictment, meaning that authorities are searching for more people who also indicted on similar drug conspiracy charges.
An indictment is not a determination of guilt, but it indicates that there is enough evidence to proceed with formal charges and a trial. The indictment says the offenses occurred between Jan. 1 and March 17 in Maine and elsewhere.
Eight of the 10 people arrested on the indictments Tuesday were arraigned in U.S. District Court in Bangor later that afternoon.
By Tuesday evening, four had pleaded not guilty and had been released on $5,000 unsecured bail — Pelletier, Blodgett, Lemieux and Ware — while Hanson and Justin Lacroix were scheduled for arraignments this morning. McCray and Rodney Lacroix pleaded not guilty and remained in custody Tuesday.
McCray previously was indicted April 11 by a federal grand jury on a charge of intentionally distributing a mixture or substance containing oxycodone. He allegedly sold 24 30-milligram oxycodone pills for $600 in a deal that was set up and monitored by investigators on Dec. 15, according to a Waterville police affidavit filed in federal court.
In connection with the previous case, the prosecutor indicated that the government was seeking enhanced penalties because McCray was convicted in 2006 in Kennebec County Superior Court of unlawful trafficking in scheduled drugs.
Several of those arrested have previous drug convictions.
Hernandez, for instance, was previously convicted in state court of two counts of unlawful trafficking in scheduled drugs and one count of unlawful possession of scheduled drugs.
Justin LaCroix, who was convicted of robbery and sentenced in 2006, was arrested Feb. 25 in Waterville with Jones following a traffic stop and charged with unlawful trafficking in scheduled drugs after police reported finding 85 grams of cocaine in the vehicle.
According to a press release from the office of U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty II, the case was investigated by federal agents, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, Maine State Police and Waterville Augusta, Fairfield, Oakland, Skowhegan police as well as the Somerset and Kennebec County Sheriff’s Offices.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark said Tuesday he had no other details about the case and declined further comment.