BENNINGTON — A man accused of trafficking 600 bags of heroin from Massachusetts to Vermont is being charged as a habitual offender for his prior felony convictions and, if convicted, could be sentenced to life in prison.
Vermont State Troopers arrested Thomas J. Cross, 40, of Bennington last week during a traffic stop in Searsburg. Troopers seized nearly 19 grams of heroin, worth about $9,000, from a vehicle Cross was a passenger in, according to court documents.
Cross pleaded not guilty on Monday in Vermont Superior Court Criminal Division Bennington Unit to a felonious charge of trafficking heroin. That charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison or a $1 million fine, or both.
But Cross is being charged as a habitual offender, having been convicted of three or more felonies, and could be given a life sentence. His criminal record dates back to 1994 with eight felony convictions, including identity theft, escaping furlough, selling cocaine, and burglary, according to court documents.
Cross is being held at the Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility in Rutland.
According to an affidavit by Vermont State Trooper Lucas Hall, he was conducting speed enforcement patrol on Route 9 in Searsburg on Aug. 19 when he pulled over a westbound 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe for travelling five miles an hour above the posted speed limit and for having a license plate obstructed by a plate bracket.
Hall wrote that he did not know Cross was a passenger until he stopped the vehicle. Hall wrote he learned earlier this month that members of the Southern Vermont Drug Task Force were investigating Cross for trafficking large amounts of heroin from Holyoke, Mass. to Bennington. Hall also wrote he learned Cross was on furlough and not allowed to leave Vermont.
Cross and the driver, Laurie McCart of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., allegedly told Hall they had been at the methadone clinic in Bennington and were returning to Bennington.
In the affidavit, Hall notes several indicators that Cross had been using intravenous drugs.
Hall wrote that he spoke with McCart in his cruiser and told her that a license plate reader showed her vehicle had been in Massachusetts that day. McCart then told Hall that they went to the mall in Holyoke, Mass. and admitted to taking him several times before. McCart gave troopers consent to search the vehicle.
Troopers found 12 wrapped "stacks" of heroin in the vehicle's glove compartment. Each stack contained five "bundles" and each bundle held 10 bags of heroin, which were stamped "Hard Ball" in blue ink.
Cross allegedly told troopers he had travelled to Holyoke, Mass. to purchase the heroin from a supplier and that it all belonged to him, not the driver.
McCart was released, but told she could still face criminal charges for her involvement.
An affidavit from the Vermont Forensics Laboratory states the 600 bags contain a total of 18.9 grams of heroin. Each bag is worth about $15, for a total of $9,000.
Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.