John Pena Baez, 18, of Holyoke, Massachusetts has been indicted on drug distribution charges. Pena Baez pleaded not guilty last week in federal court in Burlington. U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin J. Doyle ordered Pena Baez detained pending trial.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, law enforcement conducted controlled purchases of fentanyl and heroin from Pena Baez in Bennington February 22, March 15 and March 23. Law enforcement arrested Pena Baez April 6. At the time of his arrest, Pena Baez was the front seat passenger in a vehicle. He was in possession of about 20 grams of suspected crack cocaine and about $7,100. Also in the vehicle, a loaded handgun was found on the floor area of the front passenger seat where Pena Baez had been sitting.
If convicted, Pena Baez faces up to twenty years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000,000 on each offense.
93% of Vermont’s record 210 opioid deaths were fentanyl-related, according to the VT Dept. of Health. Bennington County had 16 opioid-related deaths, or 45 per 100,000 residents, compared to the statewide average of 33 per 100,000.
Holyoke is located on the freeway near Springfield, a major distribution center of fentanyl smuggled across the southern border from Mexico. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid produced, fo the U.S. market, mostly in China and Mexico.
Alleged 2018 Vermont kidnapper arrested in Yellowstone – Jerry Banks, 34, of Fort Garland, Colorado was arrested following the filing of a criminal complaint that charges Banks with kidnapping Gregory Davis, a resident of Danville, on January 6, 2018. Banks was taken into custody in Yellowstone National Park, where he was working. Banks appeared in United States District Court in Landers, Wyoming for a hearing yesterday. Banks will appear again in federal court in Wyoming next week before being ordered to appear in Vermont.
Following an exhaustive investigation by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and detectives with the Vermont State Police, law enforcement obtained a criminal complaint that charges Banks with being the kidnapper. According to the complaint affidavit, Banks arrived at Davis’s Danville residence on the evening of January 6, 2018, posing as a United States Marshal claiming to arrest Davis. Davis was found dead the next day in a snowbank on a Barnet, Vermont road several miles from the Davis residence. Although Banks is not charged with Davis’s murder, the complaint affidavit contains allegations that Banks murdered Davis.
According to the allegations in the complaint, Banks used two cell phones around the time of the kidnapping. One phone, which was purchased days before the kidnapping at a Walmart in Pennsylvania, was used to call 911 minutes before the kidnapping (the 911 Phone). Banks used another phone, purchased in November 2017 at a Missouri Walmart, for data transmission as he travelled from Missouri on January 4, 2018 to Vermont on January 6, 2018 to kidnap Davis (the Data Phone). Law enforcement determined that this Data Phone was the only device that connected to cell towers both in Pennsylvania when the 911 Phone was purchased and near Danville when Davis was kidnapped. The FBI obtained surveillance images from the Pennsylvania Walmart showing the face of the 911 Phone purchaser and the white Ford Explorer he was driving.
According to the complaint, law enforcement connected these two phones to Banks in multiple ways. For example, Banks was in possession of a white Ford Explorer around the time of the kidnapping. Law enforcement obtained data associated with another phone in Banks’ name that showed that he purchased and used the Data Phone described above. Further, records obtained by law enforcement reflect that Banks purchased various items used in the kidnapping, including a Marshals badge and Marshals patches, only days before the trip to Vermont to kidnap Davis
On Jan. 7, 2018, on Peacham Road in Barnet, Vermont State Police found Davis’ body partially covered in snow. It was discovered by a passing driver.
Davis was also handcuffed. In 2018, the Davis killing was the first suspected murder and confirmed homicide in Caledonia County in nearly six years. Banks has not yet been charged with killing Davis.