BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency’s investigations into area narcotics trafficking activity over the last two months not only yielded 10 felony drug arrests but also shed light on what authorities described as a disturbing trend — parents bringing children to drug deals.
The children were preschoolers, one of them under the age of 2, according to Garry Higgins, MDEA supervisory special agent for the Bangor area. The children’s parents now are under investigation by the state Department of Health and Human Services, he said.
“We’ve seen it before but not very often. It was just very concerning that we’ve been seeing it in back-to-back investigations,” Higgins said Friday.
“Being around drug dealing is not a safe environment, especially for children,” Higgins said. “First of all, don’t do this type of activity. But if you do, don’t bring your kids along. It’s just not acceptable to do that.”
MDEA Division Commander Darrell Crandall agreed.
“A number of these people chose to expose young children not only to illicit drug use but also to the dangers associated with dealing drugs,” he said. “A number of thefts, assaults and even homicides are tied to drug crimes in Maine every year.
On Thursday, Crandall released some of the details about the alleged drug activity that led to the charges.
The first round of arrests stemmed from the purchase of cocaine by MDEA agents from Gabriel Ouellette, 25, of Lincoln and Ryan Cobb, 24, of Lee during the first two weeks of June. The transaction allegedly occurred near the intersection of Court and Hammond streets in Bangor.
On June 23, drug agents again bought cocaine from Ouellette and Cobb, who this time were accompanied by Stephanie Osnoe, 25, of Lee, according to Crandall.
During that transaction, which occurred in the parking lot of a Union Street business, Cobb and Osnoe’s toddler was in the car and people were seen using drugs in close proximity to the child. During the search of the car, agents reportedly seized prescription drugs, numerous syringes, cash and other drug paraphernalia.
All three suspects were arrested and taken to Penobscot County Jail, Crandall said. MDEA agents called DHHS Child Protective Services personnel to the scene to care for the child and to conduct an investigation.
Crandall said that Ouellette was charged with two counts of trafficking in cocaine. Cobb was charged with two counts of cocaine trafficking, endangering the welfare of a child and carrying a concealed weapon, namely brass knuckles. Osnoe was charged with one count of cocaine trafficking and with endangering the welfare of a child. Higgins said all three suspects have been released on bail.
MDEA agents arrested four more people on June 28 in connection with another incident which also involved a child, Crandall said.
Those arrests came after MDEA agents spotted a drug transaction while in a parking lot near the intersection of Third and Union streets.
Crandall said that agents watched Constance Stewart, 22, of Bangor buy oxycodone from Clifton residents Ralph Tripp, 26, and Jaime Rogers, 30, who were in a car with Rogers’ young child.
After the deal, agents confronted the trio, Crandall said. Stewart, who was on foot, swallowed an oxycodone tablet in an attempt to destroy evidence. She also struggled to get away from an MDEA agent during the arrest, but was taken into custody.
Tripp and Rogers were arrested without incident, Crandall said. Agents seized additional oxycodone tablets from Tripp along with drug paraphernalia and numerous syringes. DHHS Child Protective Services was called in to care for the child and conduct an investigation.
Tripp was charged with aggravated trafficking in oxycodone and endangering the welfare of a child, Crandall said, adding that the trafficking charge was elevated to Class A felony status because Tripp has a prior felony drug conviction. Tripp remained in jail late Thursday, unable to make bail.
Rogers was charged with felony trafficking in oxycodone and endangering the welfare of a child as well as violating the conditions of her bail from an unrelated driving offense. She also remained in jail Thursday.
Stewart, who had two outstanding warrants, was charged with felony possession of oxycodone, falsifying physical evidence and failure to submit to arrest. She also remained behind bars Thursday.
Crandall said that MDEA and DHHS staff have conducted cross-training sessions around the state to bring each other up to speed on each other’s drug-endangered children protocols in an effort to enhance communication and collaboration.
“In the end, our primary concern is the same — making sure the children are OK,” Crandall said.
As a result of other investigations, MDEA officials arrested four others on the following charges:
• Bruce Gray, 44, Corinth, trafficking in oxycodone and trafficking in hydrocodone, both elevated to Class A felony status due to a prior felony drug conviction. Gray also was charged with violating bail conditions and trafficking in fentanyl, elevated to Class A because that sale allegedly occurred while he was on bail for drug trafficking. Gray, whose previous bail was revoked, remains in jail.
Gray was arrested recently after agents reportedly bought oxycodone and hydrocodone from him near a business on North Main Street in Brewer. While Gray was out on bail, agents learned he was selling fentanyl patches — an extremely potent and dangerous form of narcotics.
Agents allegedly bought fentanyl from him in the parking lot of the Airport Mall in Bangor. Gray then drove his car to a nearby apartment, where drug agents and members of the Bangor Police Department’s Special Enforcement Team attempted to arrest him.
As they approached, Gray ran and was on the lam for about an hour. He later was seen getting into a car on Griffin Road and was arrested without further incident.
• Brian Jones, 33, Bangor, aggravated trafficking in heroin, elevated to Class A due to a prior felony drug conviction, and aggravated trafficking in OxyContin, also Class A.
MDEA agents had been investigating Jones for about a month and reportedly made two purchases of heroin and OxyContin from him. The crimes took place near his apartment on Hammond Street in Bangor. Agents arrested him on Wednesday without incident. Jones remained in jail Thursday.
• Benjamin Barton, 26, Winterport, charged with aggravated trafficking in OxyContin, elevated to Class A because he allegedly was dealing within 1,000 feet of John Bapst Memorial High School.
MDEA agents arrested Barton on June 25 after allegedly having bought OxyContin from him over the last two months. One took place in Winterport and the other near John Bapst. Barton is out on bail.
• Bryan Worcester, 23, Bangor, two counts of felony cocaine trafficking and violation of bail from a prior drug trafficking arrest. MDEA agents arrested Worcester twice during the last two months for trafficking after reportedly having bought cocaine from him. They arrested him again on June 25 because he allegedly used drugs in violation of his bail conditions. He is out on bail.
Crandall said that anyone with information on drug crimes can call MDEA toll-free at 800-452-6457 or visit its website at www.maine.gov/dps/mdea.
Bangor Daily News writer Nok-Noi Ricker contributed to this report.