KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- A man police called a "major drug supplier in Bennington County" pleaded not guilty Wednesday to numerous drug related charges.
William D. McLaughlin, 34, of Troy, N.Y., pleaded not guilty to seven felony counts of cocaine sale, two felony counts of cocaine possession, five misdemeanor counts of cocaine possession, five counts of conspiracy to sell drugs, one felony charge of drug sale to minors by selling on property abutting a school, and one misdemeanor count of solicitation. McLaughlin was being held for lack of bail on other charges, one being lewd and lascivious conduct, but an additional $50,000 bail was placed on him for the new charges, which span six dockets and name five co-defendants.
State prosecutors have said McLaughlin, along with Jeremy Fauntauzzi, 26, Jafari Tyrell, 22, and Raymond Williams, 34, are suspected of having ties to the Bloods street gang. Fantauzzi had pleaded not guilty to drug charges as well, Tyrell and Williams are being sought by police on arrest warrants issued Jan. 15.
McLaughlin’s charges mostly stem from information police said they collected from "Operation County Strike," which in mid-January targeted 63 people suspected of selling drugs in Bennington County. The operation led to the arrests of over 50 people who police said purchased drugs from "cooperating individuals" (CI) who police said agreed to aid their investigations in exchange for small cash stipends.
According to one of the affidavits, filed by a member of the Vermont Drug Task Force, police began investigating McLaughlin in August 2012 which began after they met with a person identified only as CI who said they could purchase drugs from McLaughlin, who is also known as "YB." That affidavit describes five instances in which CI was allegedly able to purchase crack cocaine from McLaughlin under varying levels of police surveillance which included digital recording devices given to CI. Police wrote the transactions occurred on Sept. 19, Sept. 25, Oct. 30, and Nov. 19 in which between .8 grams and three grams of crack cocaine was purchase for sums of either $100 or $280. There were two transactions between McLaughlin and CI on Sept. 19. The affidavit did not specify the location of the transactions beyond saying they occurred in Bennington.
According to another affidavit by a drug task force investigator, also on Sept. 25 a CI met with Daniel Hutchins, 20, and Hailey B. Clark, 19, who were in a van with McLaughlin. Police said CI was able to purchase 13.6 grams of crack cocaine from them for $1,000. Hutchins and Clark have entered not guilty pleas to drug charges as well as possessing a weapon in the commission of a felony. According to CI, what appeared to be a .22 caliber handgun was between Hutchins and Clark during the alleged drug deal. Hutchins and Clark are listed as co-defendants with McLaughlin on that docket.
McLaughlin is also a co-defendant of Antonio Anderson, 36, who is being sought on an arrest warrant. According to an affidavit, on Oct. 17 Anderson’s home on Cottrell Road in Hoosick, N.Y. was searched by the Vermont Drug Task Force working with the Rensselear County (N.Y.) Drug Task Force after receiving information from a CI on Anderson, AKA "Black," alleging he was selling cocaine.
Police said they found $100 in $20 bills in Anderson’s possession and that the bills had been recorded as being given to a CI to purchase drugs. Police said on Oct. 16 a CI called Anderson’s cell phone to arrange a drug deal, but the phone was answered by McLaughlin who, according to the CI, thanked them for buying drugs from Anderson as the money had been used to bail McLaughlin out of jail. Police said the CI was able to buy .7 grams of crack cocaine from McLaughlin that day for $100.
Two other affidavits describe similar scenarios involving McLaughlin being involved with drug deals between himself, other, and police informants. One affidavit names Lauren Cave, 29, who has pleaded not guilty to charges related to the alleged sale of drugs, as a co-defendant of McLaughlin’s, while another affidavit names someone known only as "B."
One affidavit contained information police said they obtained from a woman who said she had participated in sexual acts with McLaughlin in exchange for drugs.
McLaughlin has been held since December for violating his probation after he was accused of touching a woman while she slept at a party. Earlier in the year McLaughlin and others were facing multiple felony charges for their involvement in a fight that began on a Bennington street and traveled some distance to a person’s house. Police said the fight began when a group of people was walking down Beech Street and a vehicle pulled up next to them bearing Daris Carter, 31, who witnesses claimed said "You owe us money or give me our product back."
Police said the fight came to involve others, including McLaughlin, and ended a person’s home on Park Street where a man was allegedly assaulted by a group of people. McLaughlin pleaded guilty to an unlawful trespassing charge and was placed on probation for it, while the other charges were dropped.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr