Friday January 18, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- A woman was charged Wednesday with selling prescription drugs to a police informant while in the parking lot of the Woodford Hollow Elementary School. According to police, she sold pills twice after hours in the school’s parking lot, and on one occasion brought her 4-year-old son with her.

Mary Smith, 27, of Gage Street, was arrested Wednesday as part of Operation County Strike, which targeted suspected drug dealers across Bennington County who had been the subjects of undercover investigations by the Vermont Drug Task Force. Smith pleaded not guilty to two counts of drugs to minors -- sale on school property, and one count each of felony and misdemeanor depressant/stimulant/narcotic possession. The school charges are felonies and if convicted, Smith could face a 10 year maximum sentence on each.

Smith had $10,000 bail placed on her and according to court documents is being held at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington. Smith also pleaded not guilty to a number of heroin related charges along with John C. Lavigne, 27, who was listed a co-defendant. The school allegations and the heroin charges are from separate dockets.

According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Detective Peter Urbanowicz, who is assigned to the drug task force, in 2006 he met with a person willing to purchase drugs from people suspected by police of being drug dealers in exchange for money. Urbanowicz called this person a "cooperating individual" and referred to them in the affidavit as CI. He said over the past six years, CI has proven reliable.

According to Urbanowicz, on Sept. 14 he received a text message from CI saying he or she had been contacted by Smith who said she had pills for sale. CI said Smith was selling Oxycontin for $60, Percocet for $13, Vicodin for $11, and Dilaudid, a controlled narcotic, for $17.

Urbanowicz wrote that arrangements were made for CI to buy five tablets of Percocet for $65. He said CI and Smith planned to meet at the baseball field on Beech Street, but Smith changed the location to a municipal parking lot at the corner of Beech Street and Main Street. Urbanowicz said CI was given $64 and a recording device and sent to make the purchase after CI’s vehicle was searched.

Urbanowicz said he saw Smith get into CI’s vehicle and heard Smith discussing her boyfriend being wanted by police and her plans to move to Tennessee. They then talked about drug prices. Urbanowicz said Smith then left the vehicle and after police followed CI to a meeting place they recovered five white pills which they found were Percocet. Urbanowicz said CI was paid $100 for his or her help.

According to Urbanowicz, on Sept. 25 he was again contacted by CI who said he or she could purchase Dilaudid from Smith for $17 per pill. The deal was arranged and CI and Smith planned to meet at the Woodford Hollow Elementary School. According to Urbanowicz they did meet and things happened as they had before, only this took place in the evening and CI was able to purchase two Dilaudid tablets.

Urbanowicz wrote that on Sept. 26, he was once again contacted by CI and another arrangement was made with Smith to sell him or her prescription pills at the Woodford Hollow Elementary School. Urbanowicz said this time a male child between four and six years old was with Smith. He said Smith opened the door to CI’s car but did not get inside, and the child that accompanied Smith was out of sight briefly.

Urbanowicz said two Dilaudid tablets were recovered from CI who said they had been bought from Smith.

As part of a separate affidavit where Smith was a co-defendant with John C. Lavigne, 27, Smith pleaded not guilty to felony counts of heroin sale, conspiracy - drug, and misdemeanor heroin possession. Lavigne pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of heroin sale or delivery and three felony counts of heroin possession.

Lavigne posted $1,000 bail and is under a 24-hour curfew at the Midtown Motel in Bennington. The docket describing the alleged drug sales at the school is separate from the one alleging Smith’s involvement with selling heroin.

According to Urbanowicz, on Dec. 14 he was told by CI that he or she could purchase heroin through Smith and that it was Smith’s role to act as a "middle man" for a third party. CI was given $25 and sent to Smith’s home at 715 Main Street. Urbanowicz said CI was out of sight in a rear parking lot for a brief period, then sent a text message to Urbanowicz saying he or she had received a text from Smith saying she "Had 2 run to West End." CI said he or she asked why and the response Smith gave was "P30."

According to Urbanowicz, P30 is slang referring to the drug Percocet. Urbanowicz said he previously suspected drug activity in Bennington’s west end and asked CI to inquire from Smith about what it might be.

Urbanowicz said CI’s vehicle then left and went to the Midtown Motel on Main Street. Detective Trooper Robert Zink saw Smith get out of CI’s vehicle and go towards two building’s behind the motel, which are two small apartments rented out by the motel’s owners. According to the affidavit, Smith then returned to CI’s vehicle and they went back to 715 Main St. CI then met with police and turned over a bag of heroin and told police that Smith said she had sold pills to a person in the west end portion of town.

The following week, CI told Urbanowicz he or she had met Lavigne and could buy heroin from him at the rate of 12 bags for $380. It was arranged that CI and Lavigne would meet at the Midtown Motel on Dec. 20. Urbanowicz said CI parked next to a white minivan, which then left the motel and was followed by CI to 614 Gage St., near the Bennington Recreation Center. Urbanowicz said a male came out and left in the minivan, which other detectives saw go to Mincer’s Mini Mart on Main Street along with CI in his or her vehicle.

Urbanowicz wrote the minivan returned to the motel and when police met with CI they were given 12 bags of heroin which CI said was bought from Lavigne.

On Dec. 31, Urbanowicz wrote CI said once again he or she could buy heroin from Lavigne. They met at the Midtown Motel, went to the same place on Gage Street as before, only this time a woman came out of the Gage Street residence and left in a black sedan. She came back a short time later then went into the house. After half an hour Lavigne came out of the house and made contact with CI, who later met with police, turned over only eight bags of heroin, weighing 2.5 grams with packaging, and said it was bought from Lavigne.

Urbanowicz wrote that on Jan. 4, CI was part of another operation where he or she got into a minivan with Lavigne and they ultimately went to the parking lot in front of the Department of Motor Vehicle office on Depot Street where CI purchased heroin from Lavigne, turning over nine bags of the drug to police.

According to the affidavit the average weight of the heroin packages in these cases was 31.9 milligrams.