Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Coke bust near S.P. school

Published in the Current and the American Journal

Two 25-year-olds were arrested July 9 on charges of trafficking in cocaine in a home at 566 Ocean Street, just a few doors away from the Hamlin School in South Portland.

A search of the house resulted in the seizure of three handguns, two rifles, a shotgun, several magazines and rounds of ammunition, $8,100 in cash, two scales, seven drug-packaging plastic bags, three tablets of OxyContin “packaged for resale,” methadone and a crack pipe.

The house is “well within the 1,000 feet” drug-free school zone required by state law, said Scott Pelletier, a supervising special agent with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, which conducted a search at the home and arrested the two people living there.

Mark Morin and Cheryl Gallant were arrested and have been charged with felony aggravated trafficking in cocaine-related drugs. Both have posted bail. Their cases will go before a Cumberland County Grand Jury next month, Pelletier said.

Morin and Gallant had left the home as MDEA agents and South Portland police were preparing to enter the home, just before 9:30 p.m., July 9. The pair was driving away in Morin’s Chevrolet Suburban when the vehicle was stopped. They were each found in possession of “an amount of crack cocaine.”

The warrant was served shortly thereafter. Agents had made special arrangements for entering the home unannounced, as they were expecting children to be in the home. “There are children there routinely,” Pelletier said.

There were none, and the kids are now “with their mothers,” Pelletier said.

In late May, an anonymous informant told South Portland Detective Steven Webster, assigned to the MDEA, that Morin was “selling cocaine base in the Greater Portland area,” according to the search warrant filed in Portland District Court.

The informant told him Morin “was known to move frequently” and usually carried a handgun when making drug deals.

On July 2, a second informant told Webster Morin was “selling in excess of one ounce of cocaine base per day” and was also “trading cocaine base for guns.”

The source, who said Morin had recently gotten three friends addicted to cocaine, also told Webster that Morin had an “extremely vicious” pit bull.

It was so vicious, in fact, that a South Portland police officer, investigating an unrelated July 4 complaint that the pit bull had attacked someone, had to shoot at the dog to turn away an attack himself. The shot missed, and the dog was unhurt.

On July 9, the day of residential trash collection in the neighborhood, police searched the trash from 566 Ocean Street and found 11 filters “used when smoking cocaine base or crack cocaine,” 10 plastic bags “commonly used for packaging drugs for sale,” four sandwich bags “that appeared to have cocaine residue” and one of which tested positive for cocaine in a field test, two used hypodermic needles and a plastic crack pipe, according to court documents.

Webster then applied for a search warrant allowing unannounced entry during nighttime hours because, the warrant states, cocaine evidence could be destroyed if the entry was announced, and because of fear Morin “may use deadly or non-deadly force in resistance.”