Woman sentenced to 9 months in drug case

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BURLINGTON — A Bennington County woman who supplied a handgun to a major drug dealer in Southern Vermont was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Burlington to 9 months in federal prison.

The sentence for Brandi Grover, 43, matches the time she has served while awaiting resolution of her criminal case, but her legal problems are not over.

Grover still faces state charges in both Bennington and Windham counties, said Senior Federal Judge William K. Sessions III. The judge said he hoped any sentence Grover might get in state court would run concurrent and not consecutive to her federal sentence.

Sessions also imposed a three-year term of supervised release when Grover is discharged from prison. Sessions said he wants Grover to write a report to the court on her rehabilitation progress on the anniversary of her sentencing for the next three years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Drescher had maintained the three-year term was needed to ensure Grover continued to follow the law.

Grover, also known as Brandi Merrow, has lived in Manchester, Arlington and Bennington, records show.

Grover is one of least 10 defendants charged with felony drug and/or gun charges in federal court in Vermont as part of the wide-spread investigation. Several other people have faced state drug charges.

Sessions said he was struck by Grover not getting hooked on drugs until late in her life.

Defense attorney Natasha Sen of Middlebury said Grover's life began to spiral downhill in August 2015 after her husband, Jerry Merrow was electrocuted in a work accident. She also lost her home, her livelihood and any stability, Sen said in her sentencing memo.

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She was later linked to a major heroin and fentanyl distribution ring in the Manchester area.

Brenden A. Fournier, 25, Jonathan "Bovice" Resto, 25, and Anthony "Ant" Casiano, 25, were all from the Holyoke, Mass. area, but had set up a drug business in the Manchester area using several hotels.

Fournier received a 5-year federal prison term, while Resto was ordered to serve a 3-year sentence. Casiano received a 15-month prison term.

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Resto said he and Fournier began distributing heroin in the Manchester area for Steven Lovely, court records show.

Lovely, 43, was a major drug dealer, but he and Amanda Sanderson, 35, were gunned down and their cabin torched in Townshend on Oct. 27, 2017, state police said.

Justin Orwat, 48, of Springfield, Massachusetts, is due to go on trial later this year for two counts of aggravated murder and one count of first degree arson for the cabin where they were staying on Shirley Circle.

Fournier, who is Orwat's nephew, took over the drug distribution business, authorities said.

Grover had started with cocaine, but a friend introduced her to heroin, Sen wrote. She said Grover was using 15 bags of heroin a day, but it soon peaked at 60 to 70 bags a day. That caused Grover to run up an enormous drug debt.

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Sen said Grover got spooked during a late-night incident when Fournier arrived at her residence. He told Grover that it was easy for him to enter her home anytime, Sen said. It was at that point she sent her 15 year-old daughter to live with her father, Sen said.

Grover then bought the 9mm semi-automatic black color pistol for $400 from David Dern in Bennington to defend herself from Fournier, court records show.

Grover's former partner, Travis Norton, later told Fournier about the handgun and against her better judgment she sold it to him, Sen said. Grover reported she became indebted to Lovely because Norton had stolen money that she had collected and owed him, Sen said in court papers. The gun sale helped reduce her drug debt.

Manchester Police arrested Grover in December 2017 following three controlled heroin buys, records show. Grover said Fournier was a "boss" within the distribution organization. Records show Grover reported she often saw Fournier with $10,000 to $15,000 and that he made that each week.

Grover said she used to obtain heroin from Phil Lovely, but following his death, she had been buying from Fournier, investigators said.

Casiano and Resto had 1,092 bags of fentanyl in a safe when they were arrested following a raid at the Four Winds Country Motel on Main Street in Manchester December 20, 2017, records show. Investigators found Resto and Casiano in one bed in room 116, while Fournier was in an adjoining bed, court records show.

The safe also contained cocaine, scales and a drug ledger, which had names or initials and amounts, records show. One of the names was "Brandi."

When Grover was arrested on the federal charges April 1, 2019 Grover had been participating in an outpatient substance abuse treatment program in Bennington, Sen said.


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