BENNINGTON -- A Main Street woman is accused of mailing drugs to a man in a Kentucky prison and using a local attorney's name on the return address for the envelope.
Lauren Cave, 31, pleaded not guilty Monday in Vermont Superior Court to felony counts of narcotic delivery, and identity theft, along with a misdemeanor count of narcotic possession. She was also charged with violating her probation, which she denied.
Cave was arrested in January 2013 during Operation County Strike, the state's largest drug sweep. The person she is accused of sending drugs to is William D. McLaughlin, 35, who was not arrested in the sweep but through related investigations was implicated as a major supplier of heroin in the Bennington area. In August he was sentenced to serve seven years in prison.
After Cave pleaded guilty in July 2013 to two felony counts of cocaine sale, and one count of conspiracy to sell drugs, she received a five-year deferred sentence for the conspiracy charge, and suspended sentences on the others.
Her deferred sentence was revoked Monday.
According to an affidavit by a member of the Vermont Drug Task Force, on May 28 a drug smuggling incident at the Lee Adjustment Center in Beattyville, Kentucky, was brought to his attention. An investigator at the prison had been monitoring phone calls between McLaughlin and Cave and it was during one of these calls that he told Cave to mail him Suboxone strips by concealing them in a hidden pocket attached to a collection of documents.
The documents were intercepted and it was noted their return address was that of John M. Cohen, a Bennington attorney, who told investigators he never sent the package nor has he ever represented Cave or McLaughlin.
Discovered inside the packet was six orange strips labeled "N8" which tested positive for Buprenorphine, a narcotic.
"Miss Cave is not involved in any drug-related activity," McLaughlin wrote in a statement. "I would never put her in that position."
He said he and Cave run an online business called, "LCs Tag Sale Extravaganza." He said the business has been confused with drug activity before but found not to be. He said he had no idea who sent the packet with the narcotic strips.
The task force member wrote that he listened to a recording of a call between Cave and McLaughlin on May 10, during which McLaughlin tells her to copy down a list of numbers then tells her to "play the lotto."
McLaughlin repeats numbers in the sequence, which according to the investigator is not done with lottery numbers, making him think the list was in fact a code.
Cave spoke to a probation officer on June 19 and told her that she received the packet from McLaughlin and put six Suboxone strips in it. She used Google to find the name of a local attorney, Cohen, and used him for the return address.
She claimed he did not tell her to do this, and that Suboxone strips are worth a lot of money in jail.
The list of numbers is a code, she said, and she and McLaughlin use it to speak to each other.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.