WATERVILLE — Police used a ram to break down a room at the Budget Host Inn Sunday night, charging four people in connection with a cocaine and pill selling operation there and seizing thousands of dollars in cash and drugs, some of which was hidden inside a snack box.
During a search of the hotel rooms at the Kennedy Memorial Drive motel, police seized crack cocaine and Oxycodone with a street value of $19,000, as well as $4,521 in cash and $1,200 in counterfeit U.S. currency, according to police Chief Joseph Massey.
Massey said the case highlights a trend of more drug dealers coming to the Waterville area from out of state, and he theorizes dealers are facing increased competition in larger cities and are enticed by selling drugs for more money here. Dealers come for three or four days, set up, sell all their drugs, get on the bus and head back to the city and hide, he said.
“It’s tough, selling in the bigger cities,” Massey said. “It’s dangerous selling in the bigger cities and there’s more law enforcement in bigger cities.”
Arrested in connection with the Budget Host operation were Wentworth Rhoden, 31, and Alexis Vilar, 24, both of Bridgeport, Conn., and Christina Pena-Cantor, 36, who listed her address as the motel.
Rhoden and Vilar were each charged with one count of aggravated trafficking in illegal drugs and one count of unlawful trafficking in illegal drugs; criminal conspiracy to traffic in illegal drugs, class B; and refusing to submit to arrest or detention, also class B.
Pena-Cantor was charged with criminal conspiracy to traffic in illegal drugs, class B, and is being held on a probation hold for class A robbery. In 2011, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but 30 months suspended and four years of probation, for planning a conspiracy to rob a taxi driver at gunpoint in Waterville in December 2010.
Rhoden, Vilar and Pena-Cantor made a first appearance Monday in Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta and are being held at Kennebec County jail.
In addition, Robert Greatorex, 23, of 581 North Pond Road, Winslow, was summoned and charged with criminal conspiracy to traffic in illegal drugs in connection with the case and is expected to appear in court May 13.
Massey said Monday that Rhoden and Vilar are listed as felons in Connecticut and have extensive criminal histories there. Vilar has been convicted of multiple drug offenses including possession of drugs with intent to sell and resisting arrest; Rhoden also has multiple felony convictions for selling illegal drugs and numerous charges of escape, according to Massey. Pena-Cantor has been convicted of probation violation and criminal trespass, he said.
Police on Sunday afternoon, watching rooms 142 and 150 at the Budget Host, saw a flurry of people going in and coming out over several hours, Massey said.
Police suspect Pena-Cantor was helping Rhoden and Vilar sell drugs by taking orders from her room, going to their room to get the drugs and returning to sell it to customers, Massey said. He said Rhoden and Vilar had been staying at the hotel for a couple of days.
Court affidavits released Monday and signed by Waterville police Detective Duane Cloutier say police had probable cause to believe Rhoden and Vilar trafficked crack cocaine and Oxycodone, conspired in the criminal case and refused to submit to arrest or detention.
At about 11:30 p.m., Cloutier and other police officials on Sunday searched the two rooms at the hotel.
The investigation revealed Pena-Cantor sold drugs to two different people in room 150, according to the affidavit. Rhoden and Vilar, who were in room 142, were supplying Pena-Cantor with the drugs.
Rhoden and Vilar walked into their room as police were searching it late Sunday and refused to submit to arrest.
“Wentworth attempted to push his way through the door but was brought to the floor” by Cloutier, Sgt. William Bonney and Officer Steve Brame, according to the affidavit. Wentworth held his arm under his body and ignored police commands to stop resisting and to put his arm behind his back, it said, while Vilar also resisted.
After a short struggle with both men, Bonney called for police to respond to room 150 to search it.
Police used a ram to enter that room and detained Pena-Cantor and Greatorex and then searched Wentworth and found an iPhone, Rhoden’s Connecticut identification and $1,200 in what police said is counterfeit money.
They said they also found $3,431 in cash on Vilar. Massey said police will contact the U.S. Treasury Department to see if officials there want to press charges related to the counterfeit money.
Police said they also found a Reese Puffs Treat box on the nightstand between the two beds and inside was $1,090 in cash, a plastic bag containing 199, 30 mg. Oxycodone pills and 12, 15 mg. Oxycodone pills, as well as a large plastic bag containing crack cocaine which police later weighed at 3.8 ounces. Police also seized a rental car.
After Wentworth and Rhoden were brought to the police department, their bail was set at $100,000 cash for each for the trafficking charges, $50,000 for the criminal conspiracy charge and $1,000 cash for refusing to submit, for a total of $251,000 cash bail for each man, according to the affidavit. They were then taken to the Augusta jail.