Sweep nets seven in Northshire

BENNINGTON COUNTY - Five people from Manchester were taken into custody on drug related charges on Wednesday as part of "Operation Country Strike Two."

The operation comes about eight months after the unprecedented sweep in January that resulted in 48 people being arrested county wide. This time around about half that number were arrested with 21 being taken into custody county wide on Wednesday.

Although the number of people taken into custody has decreased, Chief of the Manchester Police Department, Michael Hall, said that did not necessarily indicate that there were fewer people selling drugs.

"Once you do an operation like this, as they become frequent and become more systematic, the people involved in the street learn from their mistakes and they also learn from the experiences of others," said Hall. "One would like to be able to attribute that to a reduction in the number of people you have doing it, which is probably accurate to some degree, but also there's a certain degree of sophistication that takes a step up every time you do these. So, [it's] kind of a two fold situation."

Hall also said infiltrating the criminal element becomes increasingly more difficult following operations such as the two sweeps that have occurred in Bennington County because people involved not only become increasingly cautions and paranoid, but better educated as well.

The five people that were arrested in Manchester were targeted because they were actively dealing drugs. The five suspects have been under suspicion or investigation for the past year in part due to information the police received from members of the community, Hall said. In addition to the five people arrested in Manchester, there was also one person arrested in Arlington.

Dierdre Jefferson and Daniel Reddan - both of Manchester - and Bonnie Bucchieri of Arlington were all arrested for allegedly selling heroin. Joseph Wright of Manchester was charged on one count of allegedly selling cocaine and one count of possession of cocaine. Ashley Rafus of Manchester is facing four counts each for the alleged sale and possession of cocaine as well as four counts of allegedly dispensing from a dwelling.

Although not a target in the sweep, Andy Farkas of Manchester - who has a prior record, according to Hall - was detained on Tuesday and was subsequently arrested and charged with the alleged possession of more than 200 milligrams of heroin and possession of a narcotic drug according to Deputy State's Attorney Robert Plunkett.

Farkas was arrested while he was in the presence of Christopher Stevens - a person police were targeting during the sweep and for whom they had an arrest warrant. Stevens was taken into custody on Tuesday as well and was subsequently arrested and charged with one count each for the alleged sale of heroin and cocaine as well as one count each of possession of cocaine and heroin. If convicted, Stevens is facing a maximum penalty of five years, a $100,000 fine or both for the sale of less than 200 milligrams of heroin. The same penalty exists for the sale of less than 2.5 grams of cocaine. Stevens also has a charge of larceny from a person pending against him, according to Bennington County State's Attorney Erica Marthage.

Farkas is facing a maximum penalty of five years or a $1,000 fine for the possession of heroin and up to one year or a $2,000 fine for the possession of a narcotic if convicted, Plunkett said. While he could not speak to Farkas' case specifically, Plunkett said a prior criminal record was an "important factor" in every potential sentence.

The potential penalty that the others arrested in the Northshire are facing are daunting as well. The maximum penalty for one charge of the sale of cocaine is five years in jail and up to a $100,000 fine. The same penalty exists for the sale of heroin. For possession of cocaine the maximum penalty under state statute is up to one year in jail or a $2,000 fine or both and the maximum penalty for dispensing from a dwelling is up to two years in jail or a fine of not more than $1,000 or both, Plunkett said.

While the maximum penalties may seem severe, Hall said he believes it is unlikely that most of the people arrested in the Northshire during yesterday's sweep will see significant jail time, if any at all. Instead, he said he believes the resolution of the case will center around treatment and rehabilitation.

Also, unlike the first sweep in January, Hall said the offenses committed by those taken into custody on Wednesday were less severe.

"Without question many of the individuals involved in the sweep were certainly low level in comparison with what we've seen in the past," said Hall. "Our goal is to target the major players. However, in order to get to those major players you have to start at the street level and that's where we're at primarily with this sweep."

An extended version of this story will appear on the Journal's website in the near future.

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