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Eight People Charged with Making Their Homes Available for Drug Distribution in Winooski, Vermont

JUL 22 (BURLINGTON, Vt.) –– Michael J. Ferguson Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for New England and the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont announced federal criminal charges against eight individuals accused of making six different residences on a three-block stretch of Malletts Bay Avenue in Winooski, Vermont available for drug activity. These charges resulted from a long-term investigation into the distribution of heroin and crack cocaine in Winooski. The individuals charged today are alleged to have facilitated drug dealers who distributed over a kilogram of heroin and significant amounts of crack cocaine in 2014 and 2015.

The charges announced today involve the following individuals:

  • Aja Trieb, 33, for controlling an apartment at 12 Malletts Bay Avenue in Winooski, VT, and making it available for drug activity.
  • Cory Barnier, 27, and Takorian Hackney, age 31, for controlling an apartment at 33 Malletts Bay Avenue in Winooski, VT, and making it available for drug activity.
  • Kerry Rivard, 36, for controlling an apartment at 37 ½ Malletts Bay Avenue in Winooski, VT, and making it available for drug activity.
  • Rachel Gentes, 37, and Sarah Little, age 47, for controlling an apartment at 74 Malletts Bay Avenue in Winooski, VT, and making it available for drug activity.
  • Anne Weber, 32, for controlling an apartment at 94 Malletts Bay Avenue in Winooski, VT, and making it available for drug activity.
  • Tracy Korf, 53, for controlling an apartment at 98 Malletts Bay Avenue in Winooski, VT, and making it available for drug activity.

In announcing these charges, United States Attorney Eric Miller focused on the multi-layered law enforcement approach necessary to combat the trafficking of heroin and other drugs in Vermont, stating, “Individuals who make their homes available for the purpose of drug distribution play an indispensable role in drug trafficking by giving drug dealers a safe haven from which to operate and peddle their poison. As this lengthy investigation demonstrates, we are committed to going after not only those traffickers who bring drugs to Vermont, but also those facilitators who allow drug dealers to operate and thrive within our communities.”
  
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) led the investigation resulting in this morning’s arrests. “DEA is committed to investigating and dismantling drug trafficking organizations and those who facilitate their operations,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Ferguson. “DEA will aggressively pursue organizations or individuals who facilitate heroin and crack cocaine trafficking by allowing out of state dealers to utilize their residences and provide customers to the dealers in order to profit and destroy people’s lives, and wreak havoc in Vermont. This investigation demonstrates the strength and continued commitment of our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners."

The charges announced today are the latest in a series brought by federal prosecutors arising out of the DEA’s investigation into a drug distribution ring operating in Vermont under the direction of Michael Villanueva, whose nickname is “Unc.” Between 2014 and 2015, Villanueva and his associates trafficked a significant amount of heroin, crack cocaine, and other drugs in Vermont. For much of this time, Villanueva lived at an apartment in St. Albans, but most of the group’s drug distribution occurred in Winooski, with Villanueva and his co-conspirators operating out of the residences on Malletts Bay Avenue listed in today’s indictments. At a press conference discussing his decision to charge the facilitators federally, Miller pointed to the “cumulative and concentrated impact of drug distribution activity at so many homes along one street in the heart of Winooski.”

The ongoing investigation into drug trafficking by Villanueva and his associates has already resulted in multiple federal convictions:

  • On June 10, 2016, Michael Villanueva a.k.a. “Unc” pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to distribute over a kilogram of heroin and over 280 grams of crack cocaine between July 2014 and September 2015.
  • On June 2, 2015, Tyrone Dixon pleaded guilty to possessing crack cocaine with intent to distribute. Dixon was arrested in January 2015 after agents found 80 grams of crack cocaine hidden inside a loaf of bread within the car he was driving. Dixon admitted in Court to working with “Unc.” Dixon was sentenced to 18-months imprisonment.
  • On November 16, 2015, Robert Young pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin. Young was sentenced to 33-months imprisonment.
  • On January 6, 2016, Emily Lasell pleaded guilty to conspiring with Dixon and others to distribute crack cocaine.
  • On February 2, 2016, Angela Hoffman pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine. Angela Hoffman was arrested in July 2015 after agents seized a significant amount of heroin and crack cocaine from a hotel room in Williston. She admitted to working with and at the direction of “Unc.”
  • On May 12, 2016, John Hoffman pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine. John Hoffman was also arrested in July 2015 and admitted to distributing heroin and crack cocaine at various locations in Vermont at the direction of “Unc.”
  • On July 19, 2016, Sarah Ellwood pleaded guilty to making her residence in St. Albans available for Villanueva and others to engage in drug activity.

The sentences for each of the defendants who are yet to be sentenced will be advised by the federal sentencing guidelines. Villanueva faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment with a mandatory minimum of 10-years imprisonment. The defendants charged for making their homes available for drug distribution face a maximum sentence of 20-years imprisonment.
In addition, earlier this week, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Dorsey Hunt and Felicia Livingston with conspiring with Villanueva and others to distribute heroin and crack cocaine. The pending charges against Hunt and Livingston are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent until and unless they are proven guilty. Similarly, the charges announced today against the individuals on Malletts Bay Avenue are merely accusations and they are also presumed innocent until and unless they are proven guilty.

In announcing the charges against the individuals who facilitated drug distribution in Winooski, U.S.
Attorney Miller praised the agencies that participate in the DEA’s Drug Task force and assisted in the ongoing investigation and resulting arrests, which included the Vermont State Police, the Winooski Police, the Burlington Police, the Essex Police, the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Office, the United States Marshals Service, and the United States Border Patrol.


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