March 23, 2020
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4 Mainers caught in FBI drug sweep Down East that netted 27 arrests have pleaded guilty

Bill Trotter | BDN
Bill Trotter | BDN
A length of rope and sections of fencing blocked off Libby's Lane off Route 1 in Sullivan on May 3. A house on Libby's Lane and others in Jonesport and Beals were raided by state and federal drug enforcement officials as part of a sweep in eastern coastal Maine that resulted in 24 people being charged with drug trafficking-related crimes in state and federal courts.

Four of nine Maine residents facing federal drug charges after the FBI conducted a series of raids in Hancock and Washington counties this past spring that resulted in more than two dozen arrests have pleaded guilty in federal court.

Three of them — Timothy Cates of Cutler, Barry McCarthy of Columbia and Ralph Sawtelle of Lubec — face charges of maintaining drug-involved premises for allowing alleged dealers from New York City to sell crack cocaine and heroin from their homes, according to federal officials. The fourth Mainer to plead guilty to federal charges stemming from the sweep, Chandra Hanscom of Cutler, has admitted to dealing heroin, according to federal court documents.

Cates last month agreed to a plea deal that, if approved by federal Judge Lance Walker, would cap his prison sentence at two years, according to court documents. McCarthy, who allowed drug dealers to set up shop in his house directly next to the vacant Columbia Supermarket strip mall on Addison Road, on Nov. 22 pleaded guilty as part of a deal that would cap his prison sentence at three years.

Sawtelle’s plea deal, if Walker approves it, would cap his imprisonment at nine months, while Hanscom’s prison term would be capped at two years, according to court documents. Sentencing dates for the four Mainers who have pleaded guilty have not yet been set.

Four other Maine residents facing federal drug charges — Vestin Drisko of Beals Island, Renita Honea (also known as Renita Robinson) of Jonesport, Robert McKenna of Indian Township and William Smeal of Hancock — could go to trial in early 2020. A possible trial date for Cody Look of Cutler, who is charged with possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute, has not yet been identified in court filings.

Of 11 men from New York City facing federal charges in Bangor, two of them — Miguel Angel Franco and Julian Lloyd — have pleaded guilty to possession of illegal drugs with intent to distribute, but do not yet have sentencing dates. Eight of the other alleged dealers from New York City could have their cases go to trial early next year.

Another defendant from New York City, Jose Miranda, is challenging the admissibility of evidence collected by Maine State Police during a March 11, 2019, traffic stop in Dedham, during which police say they found him in possession of 93 grams of crack cocaine. A potential federal trial date for Miranda has not been identified in court filings.

In all, 27 people have been charged as a result of the investigation. Twelve of them are alleged drug dealers from New York City and 15 are Maine residents.

A total of 20 people — 11 New York City residents and nine Maine residents — are facing charges in federal court in Bangor. Six Maine residents and one New York City man are facing state drug charges in Washington County connected to the federal investigation.

Information about the status of the related cases in state court was unavailable Thursday.


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