by Mike Donoghue, Vermont News First
Two Connecticut men, who officials say are part of an interstate drug ring involved in the distribution of fentanyl and crack cocaine in Vermont are facing federal charges following their arrest in Hardwick by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force.
Brendan Salmon, 30, who had listed home addresses in New Britain, Conn. and Hartford, Conn., rented from high-end Airbnbs in Stowe to help facilitate his drug trafficking for more than a year, the DEA said. Salmon, who uses the street name “Nice,” was involved in “trafficking of a significant quantity of drugs into Vermont,” records note.
The DEA said they arrested Salmon and Lincoln A. Robinson Jr., 28, during a raid at an apartment at 122 Spring Street in Hardwick shortly after 6 a.m. Thursday. The DEA did not provide his Connecticut hometown.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lei Raymond Sun said in court papers that a handgun, two loaded magazines and body armor found in Robinson’s bedroom indicated he “anticipated and made serious preparations for a violent confrontation involving deadly force.”
The task force named Salmon in a federal criminal complaint for knowingly and intentionally distributing fentanyl on five dates between Oct. 4, 2022 and June 27. He also is facing a second charge of aiding and abetting the known possession with intent to distribute fentanyl on Sept. 28, the complaint notes.
Salmon’s criminal charges cover mostly conduct in Lamoille County, but do stretch into Windsor County, court records show.
A third Connecticut man, serving as a reported drug courier, was stopped by Vermont State Police on Interstate 89 in Windsor County in September for traffic violations and a state trooper spotted a crack pipe in plain view in the car, court records show. They note a large quantity of powder cocaine, crack cocaine and fentanyl was later seized along with other evidence of drug trafficking.
Nicholas Gilman, 37, of Ellington, Conn. was the driver, but no public charges have been filed against him in federal court, records show. A state police spokesman said Sunday it was unclear what, if any, state charges were filed after the traffic stop and seizure.
Robinson is charged with knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to distribute crack cocaine at the apartment the day of the raid, the DEA said in court papers. More than 85 grams of suspected crack cocaine was found in his bedroom, according to a Lamoille County deputy sheriff, who is assigned to the DEA Task Force and headed the investigation.
Also seized was a black Glock 9-mm pistol with a fully loaded magazine with an estimated 15 rounds of ammunition, the deputy said. It was found near the head of the bed. The search team also found an armored tactical vest with two “Steel Ops” ballistic plates, the Lamoille deputy reported. He said a set of heavy-duty plastic hand restraints were attached to the vest.
Another loaded Glock magazine with 15 rounds was located inside a camouflage backpack near the suitcase. The DEA said it also recovered keys to a 2022 Toyota Camry with California registration plates that Robinson said he had rented to make his trip to Hardwick.
Both defendants appeared for separate hearings in U.S. District Court late Friday afternoon. Federal Magistrate Judge Kevin J. Doyle ordered Salmon held until at least Tuesday when a motion by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to have him detained pending trial can be heard.
The government initially requested Robinson be detained pending trial, but withdrew it. Defense lawyer Robert Behrens successfully requested his release on conditions. Sun said Robinson has no ties to Vermont and maintained his sole purpose in Vermont was to engage in crime.
Doyle agreed to release him on strict conditions and warned him that any violation could result in him being jailed pending trial in federal court.
The case against Salmon originated with a tip from a citizen to the Stowe Police Department on Sept. 15, 2022 and by the time the investigation ended, the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department, Morristown and Hardwick Police and Vermont Drug Task Force were assisting the DEA Task Force with the 14-month case.
The tip identified Salmon by name and said he was staying at the Toll Road townhouse development and was driving a white Chevrolet Suburban with Connecticut plates, which turned out to be rented, court records show.
The task force confirmed the presence of the vehicle that day. Morristown Police Chief Jason Luneau spotted the vehicle two weeks later and followed it to the Mount Mansfield townhouse complex off the Mountain Road in Stowe. He noticed the physical appearance of the driver after he parked the vehicle and it matched a subsequent check with his driver’s license from the state of Connecticut, the DEA said.
The Lamoille deputy sheriff was able to get an informant to make a controlled buy of 10 wax bags of suspected fentanyl for $100 at the Mount Mansfield townhouse on Oct. 4, 2022, records show.
A second sale of 50 white wax bags containing suspected fentanyl for $200 was executed at Unit G at the Mountainside Resort in Stowe on Nov. 1, 2022, court records maintain.
The third fentanyl sale for $350 happened at 826 Lower Elmore Mountain Road in Morristown on Feb. 28, 2023, the DEA said. The informant turned over two rubber-banded packages of wax bags with the suspected fentanyl, records show.
The fourth sale of suspected fentanyl for $350 reportedly happened at 4969 Mountain Road in Stowe on May 31 and the seller, who could not be seen by investigators, arrived in a white Chevrolet Tahoe with New York state license plates, records show.
The informant confirmed that the deal had been pre-arranged with Salmon and investigators reported the defendant had been stopped five days earlier for speeding by Hartford Police on Interstate 89 with Salmon behind the wheel of the rented Tahoe.
The fifth sale, also for $350, was arranged through the same Vermont cellphone that Salmon had used in three earlier transactions with the informant, the task force said. The sale happened at 6049 Mountain Road with the rented Tahoe in the parking lot outside, records show. The informant turned over two rubber-banded packages of green wax bags with suspected fentanyl, the DEA said.
Massachusetts State Police stopped Salmon for speeding on Sept. 16 in a 2023 white Ford F-150 headed northbound on I-91 in Greenfield Mass. just south of the Vermont border, police said. He was the loan occupant of the rented truck with Massachusetts license plates.
The next day Morristown Police stopped the truck for negligent operation on Vermont 100 and Salmon was identified as the driver and Richard Williams was the sole passenger, the DEA said. Salmon was ordered to appear in Vermont Superior Court on Oct. 25, for the criminal charge and he pleaded guilty and paid a fine, court records show.
Vermont investigators learned on Sept. 25 that Salmon was northbound on I-91 near Longmeadow, Mass. in a 2023 GMC Yukon with Pennsylvania that he had rented. About two hours behind him also northbound on I-91 was a 2013 Volkswagen, the DEA said.
The Volkswagen was registered to Beverly Gilman, 72, of Ellington, Conn. and that Salmon’s Vermont cellphone number was frequently in contact between January and September with a number belonging to Jonathan Gilman, 70, who had shared an address with her, a court affidavit said.
Nicholas Gilman, 37, was found behind the wheel when Vermont State Police stopped the black Volkswagen, the DEA said. He was the sole occupant and a crack pipe was spotted in plain view by a state trooper.
A drug-trained police K-9 reacted to the car for the presence of narcotics, the DEA said.
State police subsequently searched the car and recovered a blue checkered backpack with a large quantity of drugs, court records show.
Among the items seized were 570 grams of a white powder substance consistent with cocaine; 119 grams of an off-white chunky substance consistent with crack cocaine; 672 grams of a substance consistent with fentanyl and packaged in 2,775 glassine bags; a compact digital scale with a white powdery substance on it and a glass measuring cup, records show.
State police said they also recovered a blue metal lockbox with about 42.6 grams of an off-white chunky substance consistent with crack cocaine and 14 glassine bags containing a substance consistent with the appearance of fentanyl, a hypodermic needle and other drug paraphernalia.
All the drugs were field tested and came back positive as suspected, but were later shipped to the DEA Northeast Lab for further testing and storage, records show.
During the investigation Gilman’s vehicle was linked to a residence at 177 Mount Mansfield Drive in Stowe. Also spotted at the residence was the 2023 white Ford F-150 rented by Salmon that was stopped by Massachusetts State Police and Morristown Police within a 24 hour period, the DEA said. The 2023 Ford truck rented by Salmon also was spotted parked at a residence at 229 Hartson Road.
The DEA said it believed Salmon had directed Gilman to both addresses to conduct drug transactions.
Investigators also have evidence of an apparent drug deal between Salmon and Gilman happening at a Burger King in East Windsor, Conn. On Sept. 25, court records show.
When seized, Gilman’s cellphone showed he had stored Salmon’s Vermont cellphone number under the name “Nyce” an apparent variation to his street name “Nice,” the DEA said.
During the raid in Hardwick, DEA Special Agent Adam Chetwynd reported he found Robinson in a small second floor bedroom with a hard shell suitcase next to him. On top of the suitcase was his wallet and cellophane bags holding 7 pieces of an off-white rocklike substance, court records show.
The Lamoille County deputy sheriff, who is leading the investigation, said based on his professional training he believed it was crack cocaine and it later weighed in at 50.8 grams.
The deputy said investigators also found on a nearby table a small digital scale with another cellophane bag with an off-white rocklike substance. It weighed 34.4 grams and also appeared to be crack cocaine, he said.
Christopher Clement, the resident agent in charge for DEA in Vermont, did not respond to press inquiries about the drug raid and arrests.
A DEA spokeswoman in Boston later offered a general statement about the ongoing investigation.
“These defendants are from out of town and they wreaked havoc on those who suffer from substance-abuse disorder. The defendants put health and safety of our communities at risk,” Kristen Govostes said in a text message.
Categories: Drugs and Crime