More than 60 law enforcement officers conducted simultaneous arrest raids Thursday morning in Lewiston and Auburn after a months-long federal investigation into trafficking of heroin, cocaine and oxycodone in Androscoggin County.
Authorities in Massachusetts also made a series of warrant arrests in connection with the same investigation, leading to a total of at least 12 arrests in the single-day sweep in the two states with more arrests expected soon, according to records in U.S. District Court in Portland.
“The idea behind it was we went to several locations at the same time, simultaneously,” Lewiston Police Chief Michael Bussiere said. “It was a federal investigation conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration with cooperation from the Lewiston and Auburn police departments and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.”
Other agencies involved in the raids included the Federal Bureau of Investigation; federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Marshals Service and Maine State Police.
Bussiere said that in addition to the arrests, authorities seized drugs, several firearms and at least one vehicle.
Authorities obtained warrants for the arrests of at least 16 individuals after a federal grand jury in Portland returned a nine-count indictment on May 20. That indictment was partially unsealed in court records Thursday after the arrests, though the names of those who have yet to be arrested were blacked out.
By late morning, authorities began leading those arrested before judges in two courtrooms in Portland to face charges ranging from felony drug trafficking conspiracy, punishable by up to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $5 million, to charges of unlawful use of a communication facility, punishable by up to four years in prison.
The lead name on the indictment is 33-year-old Romelly Dastinot, a Lewiston man who also goes by the name “Marcus.” Dastinot was arrested on a warrant for two charges: conspiracy to traffic more than 100 grams of heroin, 28 or more grams of cocaine and oxycodone between early 2012 and May 2014; and possession with intent to distribute oxycodone on March 22.
Others arrested include Jacques “Face” Victor, 34, of Auburn; Pierre “Cookie” Dubois, 24, of Massachusetts; Dimitry “Jimmy” Gordon, 41, of Lewiston; Ashley Gleason, 22, of Auburn; Jean Valbrun, 26, of Lowell, Massachusetts; Jonathan Duffaud, 23, of Lowell, Massachusetts; Pierre “Cash” Azor, 32, of Lewiston; Carrie “Grandma” Buntrock, 52, of Lewiston; Mekayla Farley, 22, of Lewiston; Stephen Chadwick, 25, of Lewiston; and Richard McKenzie, 31, of Lewiston.
Federal authorities continued to unseal new documents in U.S. District Court in Portland throughout the day. But none of those documents provided details of the federal investigation or more precise amounts of drugs being trafficked. The charges suggest the investigation involved one or more wiretaps.
Prosecutors in court declined to comment on the case against any of those arrested and said little.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark confirmed Thursday afternoon that a dozen people had been arrested so far but declined to comment further.
Authorities are also seeking to seize an unspecified amount of money and goods paid for through illegal proceeds from the drug ring, according to the indictment.
Authorities identified Gleason’s white 2004 Audi A6 as one of the items they are seeking to seize through forfeiture, the indictment states.
Scott Dolan can be reached at 791-6304 or at: