February 21. 2014 10:06PM

Manchester chief says heroin won't be going away

New Hampshire Union Leader

MANCHESTER — Manchester Police Chief David Mara said he knows the arrest of nearly 30 people on drug sale charges this week won't stop heroin use in the city. But he said Friday: "We want to make it very uncomfortable to sell drugs in Manchester."

Twenty-five of the people arrested in Operation Clean Sweep were arraigned Thursday and Friday in Circuit Court-Manchester District Division on charges of selling heroin, crack cocaine, oxycodone and marijuana.

While the sales cited were mostly in 2013, with a few in 2012, in many of the cases, Mara said: "These people are still out there drug dealing."

Clean Sweep began Wednesday and continued Thursday morning with eight arrest teams and a list of 34 names. Mara announced the operation Thursday afternoon, with representatives of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Hillsborough County law enforcement agencies shortly after the first of the arrestees were arraigned in Circuit Court.

Another group was arraigned Friday morning in Circuit Court, where most had high bail set, with a requirement that there be a hearing on the source of any funds offered for bail, in an effort to ensure that drug profits are not used to get them out of jail.

Mara acknowledged a roundup of low level dealers won't seriously hamper sales. "It's a short-term solution," said Mara, who said he intends to keep making arrests, trying to get to the mid- and upper-level dealers.

For this operation, he said, he told his officers: "Go with the warrants." The people arrested in Clean Sweep are accused of selling drugs to undercover police officers or confidential informants.

At least one of those arrested is familiar with drug sweeps.

Joseph Barlow, 32, is charged with sale of both oxycodone and cocaine in 2013. He was also arrested in two earlier drug sweep operations, once at age 17 in 1998, when crack cocaine and cocaine were the targets, and again in 2008, when the biggest hauls were cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana and prescription drugs, with a minor amount of heroin.

Although he was convicted of drug sales in connection with the 2008 arrest, Barlow is now in the New Hampshire State Prison on an habitual offender conviction. His bail is $10,000 cash/surety with a March 6 probable cause hearing.

One of the drug-related arrests was brought as a theft charge.

Mark Sweet, 28, of 978 Union St., was charged with theft by unauthorized taking, because he allegedly took $250 from a police officer, but failed to provide the oxycodone he had "sold" the officer.

In court Friday, Sweet said: "This was very unexpected." He asked for a reduction in the proposed bail of $10,000 cash/surety, saying: "I'm supposed to begin a new job Monday." Judge William Lyons set bail at $3,000 cash/surety and trial was set for April 2.

A prosecutor said Sweet has a November 2012 drug conviction and in September 2013 was convicted of five counts of receiving stolen property and five of theft by deception. Mara said many of the dealers are also users and their need for drugs, and for money to pay for them, are behind a surge in burglaries, robberies and thefts.

The chief said this week, as he has before, that he cannot arrest away the drug problem and that more money needs to be devoted to drug treatment.

One of the accused, Benjamin Hesselink, who turns 25 on Sunday, sought a break on bail, saying he has completed a drug treatment program.

But police prosecutor Sgt. Stephen Reardon said there is a 72-hour probation hold on Hesselink, on a 2012 burglary conviction. Judge Lyons cut the proposed bail in half for Hesselink, whose address was listed as 101 Glendale Ave. Lyons set bail at $10,000 cash/surety, with a probable cause hearing set for March 4.

Defense attorney Adam Bernstein represented three of the people arraigned Friday, in each instance waiving the reading of their charges and seeking bail reductions.

He was able to reach an agreement with the prosecutor on two of his clients: Mario Ozuna, 48, of 173 Beech Hill Ave., two counts of sale of a controlled drug, bail is $7,500 cash/surety, probable cause hearing is March 5, and Sandra Debrito, 38, of 886 Valley St., three counts of sale of a controlled drug, $10,000 cash/surety bail, probable cause hearing March 5.

But he didn't fare as well with his third client, Zaran Johnson, 22, of 168 Merrimack St. The police prosecutors had requested bail be maintained at the $15,000 cash/surety set by the bail commissioner.

Bernstein argued for $10,000 cash/surety, saying Johnson is skilled in several fields and is seeking work, and lives with his girlfriend, who is expecting their first child, and has no prior record.

Judge Lyons, noting Johnson said on his bail information form that he had been unemployed for a year and a half and lived alone, left the bail at $15,000 cash/surety, with a probable cause date of March 5.

Defense attorney Thomas Ficarra, who waived the reading of the charges filed against his client, possession of an infernal device and sale of a controlled drug, sought $2,500 cash/surety bail for Brendan Vigneault, 30, of 217 Rosedale. Police prosecutors sought to keep bail at $7,500 cash/surety, but Judge Lyons reduced the bail to $5,000 cash/surety. When Ficarra objected to the affidavit supporting the arrest being sealed, saying he needed the information to prepare for a March 5 probable cause hearing, the judge told him to file a motion.

Some of those arrested have a drug record that goes way back. Michelle Shuman, 41, of 326 Spruce St., who is charged with three counts of sale of a controlled drug, has a 1994 conviction for sale of a narcotic. Her bail is $15,000 cash/surety, with a probable cause hearing March 5.

The other people arraigned Friday on sale of a controlled drug, cash/surety bail, and probable cause hearings:

Samantha Azotea, 23, of 38 Desaulnier St., three counts, $15,000, March 4; Kevin Potvin, 28, of 38 Desaulnier St., two counts, $10,000, March 4; Charles Bakas, 59, of 1625 Front St., two counts, $10,000, March 4; Roy Edward Currier, 47, of 9 Dearborn St., three counts, $20,000, March 6; Fritz Lemire, 36, of 208 Lowell St., two counts, $8,000, March 5; Timothy Duane Miller, 36, of 7 Ash St., three counts, $10,000, March 5.

Ashly Monty, 23, of 67 Smoke St., Nottingham, three counts, $1,500 , March 5; Mark Pepper, 33, of 204 Oakland Ave., one count, $2,500 , March 6; Robert Shatney, 48, of 231 Thornton St., two counts, $15,000, March 4; Tabitha Smith, 25, of 226 Karatzas Ave., one count, $5,000, March 6; Ramone Hernandez, 40, of 482 Beech St., 3 counts, $10,000, March 5.