25 from Maine, N.Y. charged in sweeping Downeast drug bust

The investigation involved more than 30 Maine drug agents, troopers, deputies, the FBI, Border Patrol, Secret Service, U.S. marshals and more.download (1).png

BANGOR, Maine — Fifteen people from Maine and 10 from New York were either arrested or charged this week as part of a major drug trafficking bust, involving a joint effort between 13 county, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Maine U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency announced the arrests and charges Friday, which arose from an investigation into drugs being trafficked from New York City to Washington County and Hancock County in Maine.

Seven search warrants were executed Thursday, the U.S. attorney’s office said, resulting in the seizure of several firearms, including a sawed-off shotgun and large amounts of crack and fentanyl.

Arrested and charged Thursday by criminal complaint in federal court were the following 14 people with the charge or charges proceeding:

From Maine…

  • Vestin Drisko, 40, of Beals Island; and Renita Honea, 57, of Jonesport, with distributing crack and heroin, and maintaining a drug-involved premises
  • Chandra Hanscom, 44, of Cutler, with distributing heroin
  • Cody Look, 30, of Cutler, with possession with intent to distribute crack
  • Barry McCarthy, 43, of Columbia; and Ralph Sawtelle, 27, of Lubec, with maintaining a drug-involved premises
  • Robert McKenna, 48, of Indian Township, with distributing crack
  • William Smeal, 32, of Hancock, with possession with intent to distribute fentanyl

From New York…

  • Jordy Collado, 18, of New York, New York, with possession with intent to distribute crack
  • Miquel Angel Franco, 22, and Milo Danell Germany, 21, both of Bronx, New York, with possession with intent to distribute cocaine
  • Cinque Grasette, 42, of New York, New York, with distributing crack and heroin
  • Mujahedeen Hasan, 28, of Bronx, New York, with distributing crack
  • Julian Lloyd, 24, of Bronx, New York, with possession with intent to distribute fentanyl

Kevin Leroy Barner, 53, of Bronx, New York, was arrested Thursday after having been charged by indictment March 28 with possession with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of crack.

RELATED: 2 New Yorkers charged with arson, selling heroin in Richmond

Additionally, charged Friday by criminal complaint in federal court were the following three people with the charge or charges proceeding:

  • Christopher Cruz, 30, and Christopher Martinez, 29, both of Bronx, New York, with possession with intent to distribute crack
  • Timothy Cates, 40, of Cutler, Maine, with maintaining a drug-involved premises

If convicted, Barner faces between five and 40 years in prison and up to a $5,000,000 fine.

Drisko, Honea, Hanscom, Look, McKenna, Smeal, Collado, Franco, Germany, Grasette, Hasan, Lloyd, Cruz and Martinez face up to 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine for the drug trafficking charges.

Drisko, Honea, McCarthy, Sawtelle and Cates face up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for the maintaining a drug-involved premises charges.

Part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Program, the investigation included: the MDEA; Maine State Police; FBI; U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Hancock County Sheriff’s Office; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Border Patrol; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Marshals Service; and Maine Marine Patrol.

The MDEA separately announced Friday that it had charged seven people — six from Maine and one from New York — with drug trafficking, as part of the aforementioned investigation involving more than 30 MDEA agents:

From Maine…

  • Jessica Dana, 36, of Indian Township; and Rachel Dwyer, 46, of Lubec, with unlawful trafficking crack
  • Amber Douglas, 24, of Lubec, with unlawful trafficking heroin
  • Wayne Dube, 43, of Jonesport; William Gatcomb, 49, of Sullivan; and John Moholland, 50, of Princeton, with aggravated trafficking crack

From New York…

  • Craig Price, 29, of New York, New York, with unlawful trafficking heroin/crack

Cates, who was also charged in federal court, was charged separately by Maine drug agents with unlawful possession of fentanyl.

Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor convicted in US opioid case

John Kapoor

The founder of Insys Therapeutics John Kapoor has become the first pharmaceutical boss to be convicted in a case linked to the US opioid crisis.

A Boston jury found Kapoor and four colleagues conspired to bribe doctors to prescribe addictive painkillers, often to patients who didn’t need them.

The former billionaire was found guilty of racketeering conspiracy for his role in a scheme which also misled insurers.

Tens of thousands of deaths have been caused by opioid overdoses in the US.

Indian-born Kapoor founded drugmaker Insys Therapeutics in 1990 and built it into a multi-billion dollar company.

The jury found Kapoor had also misled medical insurance companies about patients’ need for the painkillers in order to boost sales of the firm’s fentanyl spray, Subsys.

The court heard that Kapoor – who was arrested in 2017 on the same day President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a “national emergency” – ran a scheme that paid bribes to doctors to speak at fake marketing events to promote Subsys.

During the 10-week trial, jurors were also shown a rap video made by Insys for its employees on ways to boost sales of Subsys.

Kapoor and his co-defendants – Michael Gurry, Richard Simon, Sunrise Lee and Joseph Rowan – face up to 20 years in prison.

A statement from Kapoor’s lawyer said he was “disappointed” with the verdict. The men had denied the charges and have indicated that they plan to appeal.

Forbes listed Kapoor’s net worth as $1.8bn (£1.4bn) in 2018, before dropping off the publication’s billionaire rankings this year.

His conviction marks a victory for US government efforts to target companies seen to have accelerated the opioid crisis.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has said that opioids – a class of drug which includes everything from heroin to legal painkillers – were involved in almost 48,000 deaths in 2017.

The epidemic started with legally prescribed painkillers, including Percocet and OxyContin. It intensified as these were diverted to the black market.

There has also been a sharp rise in the use of illegal opioids including heroin, while many street drugs are laced with powerful opioids such as Fentanyl, increasing the risk of an overdose.

South Portland man, Lawz Lepenn arrested after police seize over 550 grams of cocaine, $15,000 from apartment

Lawz Lepenn, 37, formerly of Massachusetts, was arrested and charged with possession and trafficking of drugs, unlawful possession of a firearm, and probation violence.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — A man was arrested in South Portland Thursday night after the Southern Maine Regional SWAT team searched his apartment.

Around 8:30 p.m., agents entered the apartment at 113 MacArthur Circle in South Portland’s Redbank Village Apartments.

Their high risk search warrant was part of an ongoing drug investigation being conducted by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.

During their search, agents found and seized 554.8 grams of cocaine, 1.8 grams of cocaine base, several suboxone strips, a .25 caliber handgun and ammunition, and over $15,000 in cash.

As a result of the investigation and search, Lawz Lepenn, 37, formerly of Massachusetts, was arrested and charged with possession and trafficking of drugs, unlawful possession of a firearm, and probation violence.

Lepenn was previously convicted for aggravated attempted murder in Massachusetts.

Lepenn is being held at the Cumberland County Jail on a $15,000 bail for the new criminal charges. There is no bail on the probation charge.

Maine: Jon Ladd, 36, of Medway charged with drug trafficking in Orland

State police say Jon Ladd, 36, of Medway showed signs of recent drug use when Trooper Dana Austin responded to the scene of where Ladd had passed out.

ORLAND, Maine — A man who passed out behind the wheel Saturday evening was charged with drug trafficking in Orland.

 

State police say Jon Ladd, 36, of Medway showed signs of recent drug use w


After a search of Ladd’s car, 10 grams of fentanyl and $1,727 in cash were found.
hen Trooper Dana Austin responded to the scene of where Ladd had passed out.

Ladd was arrested and charged with aggravated trafficking of schedule w drugs.

Maine: Biddeford man, Jamison Snyder jumps out second-story window, then gets tased, then gets arrested

Jamieson Snyder was arrested Monday after he jumped out a window trying to avoid police. Officials found suspected heroin/fentanyl, cocaine, and crack on Snyder.

BIDDEFORD, Maine — A man recently released from prison who had a nationwide warrant for his arrest was arrested Monday after jumping out a second story window in Biddeford.

Maine State Police say Jamison Snyder, 47, of Biddeford was wanted in a drug trafficking case. Snyder was recently released from prison but had already violated his probation. He had 7 years o9-year9 year sentence still pending.

Police spoke to several people who said Snyder was acting strange and appeared to be under the influence of narcotics.

Around 6 p.m. Biddeford Police arrived at a Main Street Apartment looking for Snyder.

A woman would not open the door saying she needed to get dressed while an officer watching from the street saw Snyder jump from the second-floor window onto ice injuring his head.

When police surrounded Snyder his head was bleeding and he refused to show his hands and was tased.

Police found a plastic bag containing suspected heroin/fentanyl, cocaine, and crack in Snyder’s hand.

At the hospital, authorities found a large amount of cash on his person. Snyder is being charged with aggravated trafficking.

Snyder is presently being held at Maine Medical Center under police guard and will be transported to the York County Jail upon his release.

The Sacklers, Family behind OxyContin maker engineered opioid crisis, Massachusetts AG says

The Massachusetts attorney general is targeting Purdue Pharma and eight members of the Sackler family who own the company, alleging in a lawsuit they are “personally responsible” for deceptively selling OxyContin.

The attorney general, Maura Healey, sat down with “CBS This Morning.” She alleges the Sackler family hired “hundreds of workers to carry out their wishes” – pushing doctors to get “more patients on opioids, at higher doses, for longer, than ever before” all while paying “themselves billions of dollars.”

In her lawsuit, Healey names eight members of the family that own Purdue Pharma, alleging they “micromanaged” a “deceptive sales campaign.” In the conclusion to the complaint, Healey said the Sackler family used the power at their disposal to engineer an opioid crisis. Almost 400,000 people died from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2017, according to the CDC.

Healey said this is the most complete picture to date of how the opioid crisis began, and why the Sackler family itself should be held accountable. “They don’t want to accept blame for this. They blame doctors, they blame prescribers and worst of all, they blame patients,” Healey said.

Purdue Pharma called the accusations “a rush to vilify” the drugmaker. There’s a lot in the lawsuit that’s still redacted, and lawyers for Purdue plan to argue on Friday that it should stay that way.

Healey said Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family are one and the same.

In one alleged instance, then-president Richard Sackler devised what Healey describes as Sackler’s “solution to the overwhelming evidence of overdose and death,” writing in a confidential email, “we have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible. They are the culprits and the problem.”

In a statement, Purdue Pharma said the lawsuit “distorts critical facts” and “cherry-picked from among tens of millions of emails and other business documents.”

To that, Healey said, “If Purdue thinks we’re cherry picking, I invite them to produce all of their documents and let the public judge for itself.”

CBS News reached out to the members of the Sackler family named in the complaint, as well as their lawyer. Three declined comment through a press representative and we never heard back from the rest. But this is a family that rarely addresses its connection to the company that made it rich.

Jonathan Burke, a former addict, suggested Sackler take a dose of his own medicine. “I would personally tell him to take two a day for two weeks and see how he ends up,” Burke said.

Burke said his battle with addiction began 11 years ago, with a dirt bike accident and a two-month prescription of OxyContin. Just two weeks later, he was hooked.

“I’ll be 29 on Friday and didn’t think I’d make it to 25, to be honest,” Burke said. “The way that your brain becomes re-hardwired after an addiction is just absolutely insane.”

Burke later turned to illegal drugs and ended up stealing to fund his habit. “It literally damaged every relationship with every family member, friend, person I acquired in my life,” he said.

Burke’s home state of Massachusetts is one of 36 states now suing Purdue Pharma, accusing the company of downplaying the dangers of OxyContin. In a 2007 federal settlement, the company admitted to falsely selling the drug as “less addictive” than rival products. The company paid $630 million in fines.

Purdue Pharma told CBS News in a statement: “Massachusetts’ amended complaint irresponsibly and counterproductively casts every prescription of OxyContin as dangerous and illegitimate, substituting its lawyers’ sensational allegations for the expert scientific determinations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and completely ignoring the millions of patients who are prescribed Purdue Pharma’s medicines for the management of their severe chronic pain.

 In a rush to vilify a single manufacturer whose medicines represent less than 2 percent of opioid pain prescriptions rather than doing the hard work of trying to solve a complex public health crisis, the complaint distorts critical facts and cynically conflates prescription opioid medications with illegal heroin and fentanyl, which are the leading cause of overdose deaths in Massachusetts. Throughout the complaint, the Commonwealth disregards basic facts about Purdue’s prescription opioid medications including that: 

• FDA, the scientific agency charged with approving and regulating medicines in the U.S., has approved OxyContin and other Purdue opioid medications as safe and effective for their intended use; 

• Prescription opioids are among the most tightly controlled medicines in the United States, and Purdue’s OxyContin is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning that it is in a class of medicines with the highest level of control by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); 

• The first information that healthcare providers see when reading the FDA-approved label for OxyContin is a prominent “black box” warning that includes information about the risks of addiction and overdose; and

 • Purdue promoted its opioid medications based on the medical and scientific evidence in the FDA approved label and did so to licensed physicians who have the training and responsibility to ensure that medications are properly prescribed. 

The Attorney General’s allegations also omit key facts about FDA’s regulation of opioid medications:

 • In April 2010, FDA approved a reformulated version OxyContin, which Purdue developed with properties intended to deter abuse. Purdue worked for over a decade to develop the new formulation, and it was the first FDA-approved opioid with abuse deterrent properties; 

• The Massachusetts Attorney General commended the FDA for supporting abuse-deterrent formulations and later required insurers to cover them; and 

• FDA has directly addressed many of the issues within the Massachusetts’ complaint and has continued to determine that Purdue Pharma’s opioids are safe and effective for their intended use. 

Perhaps one of the biggest omissions in the Attorney General’s complaint is that, in 2013, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services determined that Purdue had fulfilled its requirements under a 2007-2012 Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) relating to the marketing of its medications and released Purdue from the agreement. Furthermore, during the term of this five-year agreement, Purdue had submitted annual reports to a designated OIG monitor and had engaged an Independent Review Organization that evaluated specified elements of Purdue’s compliance program on an periodic basis to assess compliance with the terms of the CIA.

 To distract from these omissions of fact and the other numerous deficiencies of its claims, the Attorney General has cherry-picked from among tens of millions of emails and other business documents produced by Purdue. The complaint is littered with biased and inaccurate characterizations of these documents and individual defendants, often highlighting potential courses of action that were ultimately rejected by the company.

 Purdue and the individual defendants will aggressively defend against these misleading allegations. In the meantime, we continue to fight for balance in the public discourse so that society can simultaneously help pain patients in need and create real solutions to the complex problem of addiction.”