Man pleads guilty to federal drug charges

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BURLINGTON — A Manchester man who officials say was a major distributor for heroin, fentanyl, cocaine and crack cocaine in southern Vermont has pleaded guilty to possessing with intent to distribute three of the illegal drugs.

Torrie D. Smith, 30, admitted his guilt in U.S. District Court in Burlington last week to knowingly possessing with intent to distribute heroin, cocaine and 28 grams or more of crack cocaine on Jan. 25, 2019.

The charge initially included fentanyl when he was arraigned in April, but prosecutors struck that as part of the plea agreement with Smith, who had lived on Davis Lane.

The Manchester incident, one of at least three drug cases involving Smith over five months, was one of the largest drug seizures in southern Vermont, Manchester police said.

While the investigation showed Smith was one of the largest distributors of cocaine, heroin and pills in the four southern Vermont counties, detectives also determined his products reached into Chittenden County and beyond, police said.

Smith faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, but could have been eligible to receive up to 40 years for the crime, according to his signed plea agreement. He also faces up to a $5 million fine and up to lifetime supervised release by the U.S. Probation Office once he is released from federal prison.

Prosecutors have agreed not to seek more than a six-year prison term at sentencing.

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The felony charge stems from a traffic stop on Main Street by Manchester Officers Jason Thomas and D.J. Jennings on Jan. 25, and from subsequent investigation, police said.

Smith, who is originally from Hartford, Connecticut, also was initially charged in a federal indictment with a second count for possession of heroin and crack cocaine on Nov. 27, 2018 for a motor vehicle stop in Sunderland by Vermont State Police.

During his April 4 arraignment, Smith also denied that felony charge, which carried a potential 20-year maximum prison term. That case will be dropped at sentencing under the plea agreement.

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Senior Federal Judge William K. Sessions III is scheduled to sentence Smith on Feb. 3. Sessions ordered a pre-sentence investigation report and ordered Smith detained in federal custody pending sentencing.

When Smith entered his guilty plea last week, a motion to suppress drug evidence in two other traffic cases was pending. Smith has agreed to drop those claims as part of the plea agreement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Perella maintained the police work was valid.

The suppression motion centered on drug seizures made during traffic stops by State Trooper Wayne Godfrey on U.S. 7 in Sunderland on Nov. 28, 2018 and by Chester Police Officer Todd Mayer on Vermont Route 11 on March 27, 2019, records show.

The Manchester investigation sparked the seizure of 396 bags of pure fentanyl, 9 grams of heroin, more than 4 ounces of crack cocaine in bulk form, and a large quantity of methamphetamine in colorful cube form, police said.

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Smith was a passenger in a car parked on Main Street about 11 p.m. on Jan. 25 when Manchester Police questioned the driver, who was thought not to have a valid license, records show. The driver admitted possession of drug paraphernalia, including a needle and spoon, and Manchester police called in a drug detection dog.

The drug dog alerted on the car, and after getting a state search warrant, police located an Air Jordan backpack belonging to Smith on the floor of the passenger side where he was seated, records show.

Manchester police said they arrested Smith about 4:15 p.m. April 3 at an undisclosed local convenience store not far from where he was living. Smith was in possession of crack cocaine packaged for resale when arrested, police said.

He was brought to Burlington for his arraignment in federal court and has been jailed ever since.

About a month after Smith's move into Manchester in November 2018, town police began an investigation into his possible drug activities, officials said.

Manchester Police Detective Thomas Crowe reported several confidential sources reported Smith was suspected of selling heroin and cocaine in Bennington County and would obtain the drugs in Hartford, Connecticut, before heading north to sell them, court records noted.

The Bennington County Sheriff's Department, Bennington police, the Southern Vermont Drug Task Force and Vermont State Police assisted with the investigation.


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