MANCHESTER >> A second man has been indicted following an investigation into the distribution of heroin in Manchester and surrounding towns.
According to documents filed in the Federal District Court for the District of Vermont, Antonio Lam Peralta, also known as Tony Lam and who operates Tony's New York Style Pizzeria in Bondville, was arraigned on Wednesday.
The investigation began in October of last year, when customs officials in Miami intercepted a shipment from Guatemala with a delivery address in Manchester Center. The shipment, which weighed more than 50 kilograms, contained "a substantial quantity of heroin," according to the documents.
The package was transferred to Homeland Security Investigations in Burlington, where it was found to contain 40 kilograms, or 88 pounds, of heroin. The heroin was disguised as Incaparina, a nutritional supplement in Guatemala for babies, toddlers, and pregnant women.
Most of the heroin was removed by HSI before the package was delivered to a man, Diego Mejia Paredes, outside of Cilantro in Manchester by an undercover agent. Paredes was arrested 10 minutes later.
At the time of his arrest, Paredes told agents he was in the United States to visit his cousin, who he said was Tony Lam, and to purchase vehicles to bring back and sell in Guatemala.
Peralta is a Guatemalan with lawful permanent resident immigration status.
"The arrest of Mr. Lam Peralta is the result of extraordinary effort by, and cooperation among, DEA, HSI, (the Vermont State Police) and (United States Border Patrol)," stated U.S. Attorney Eric Miller in a press release. "I am once again pleases to see our federal and state partners working so closely together to stem the flow of heroin into Vermont."
Paredes told agents he didn't know what was in the shipment and that he only agreed to pick it up for a friend in Guatemala. On Oct. 21, 2015, Paredes was indicted by a federal Grand Jury in Rutland, charged possession with intent to distribute more than one kilogram of heroin. In 2010, Paredes had been charged in Maryland with a similar crime but that indictment had been dismissed. Paredes has been held without bond after his Oct. 8 arrest outside Cilantro in Manchester.
An agent with HSI, examined two phones belonging to Paredes, and discovered a number of phone calls to and from a phone owned by Peralta. Paredes told agents he received one of the phones from Peralta. An investigation of the phones uncovered selfies of Peralta at Niagara Falls.
"Customs records confirm that (Peralta) entered the United States near Niagara Falls on September 20, 2015. Accordingly, I believe LAM was in possession of the Motorola Cell phone (possessed by Mejia on October 8) on or about September 20, 2015."
Other images on the phone included pictures of Incaparina that appear identical to those that contained heroin in the shipment to Manchester that was intercepted. In addition, a text message conversation on the phone alluded to shipments of Incaparina packages, according to court documents.
According to research conducted by His, a one-pound package of Incaparina costs about $1 but the box that was shipped to Manchester cost more than $1,000 for delivery. "The price for purchasing Incaparina in Guatemala or in the United States renders it economically irrational for such a product to be shipped ... or that persons would spend energy reporting on the delivery and organization of such packages."
Peralta's Audi A6 has been tracked traveling to Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Vermont a number of times.
According to court documents, eight shipments were made from Guatemala to various zip codes around Manchester, all of which weighed more than 40 kilograms.
Peralta is also suspected of harboring an illegal immigrant who was apprehended in Bennington County in 2007 but was scene in Vermont in 2015. That man's wife in Mexico was the recipient of a number of Western Union payments from Peralta, state the court documents.
Peralta is listed as a resident of South Londonderry. He is being held pending a detention hearing on March 28.
Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 160.