Saturday February 2, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- A judge has opted to release, with conditions, a local business owner accused of trading drugs for sex with a prostitute.

Preston Foster, 50, owner of Foster’s Cannery on Benmont Avenue, is also involved in the business of prostitution, according to a prosecutor.

Foster had been held without bail since Jan. 17 after pleading not guilty to felony cocaine sale, soliciting a prostitute, and misdemeanor cocaine possession.

According to an affidavit, police spoke to two women, whom they did not identify, late in 2012 about Foster allegedly trading drugs for sex. One of the women said that in exchange for cocaine she had sex with Foster. That woman was identified in court Thursday as Kayla Foucher by Deputy State’s Attorney Robert Plunkett. Plunkett was arguing before Judge Cortland Corsones that Foster should continue to be held without bail.

Plunkett offered a recorded interview Foucher gave to police as evidence, however it was not played in open court and the Banner has not yet been able to obtain a copy.

"Essentially the point and thrust of it is that Ms. Foucher will tell you that Mr. Foster is involved in the dealing of drugs, that is, specifically giving drugs to her for sex and that Mr. Foster is also involved in prostitution itself," Plunkett said.

"He’s somehow not just a client?" asked Corsones.

"Yes," replied Plunkett.


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Foucher was also named in a search warrant, the redacted contents of which were released to the Banner on Friday, that is part of another investigation by police into a suspected prostitution ring. The warrant, as well as police affidavits related to Foster and Michael Gates, who is also accused of trading drugs for sex, mention a person by the name of Jason Balsh.

According to the affidavits, the women police spoke to claimed Balsh is the coordinator of an "escort service" based in Troy, N.Y. The women only spoke to Balsh through text messages and Facebook and said they never sent him money.

A person with knowledge of the investigation said police believe Balsh "is a fictitious character and does not exist."

According to the written order by Corsones, Foster will be freed from the Marble Valley Correctional Facility in Rutland on the conditions he check in daily at the Bennington Police Department between 7:30 a.m. and 9 p.m., not leave Bennington County, obey a curfew of between 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. at his home on Dudley Place, and not have contact with Balsh and a number of other people.

Foster’s attorney, Joyce Brenner, had argued her client has strong ties to the area, namely his business and wife. Brenner said Foucher’s credibility is an issue as police discovered the van where the transaction allegedly took place is in fact red and not white.

Corsones wrote in his decision that he agreed Foster’s ties to the area are strong and that Foster does not have a record of failed court appearances. Brenner had argued Foster did not attempt to flee after a February search of his cannery and home by police looking for stolen property turned up allegedly stolen jewelry, which Foster was later charged with possessing knowing it was stolen. He had pleaded not guilty to that charge and it is still pending.

The state charged Foster as a habitual offender, allowing them to argue for up to life in prison should Foster be convicted of a new felony. The higher potential sentence allows the state to argue for a hold without bail order.