Gavel, judge, court, sentencing Credit: Stock image / Pexels

A Hancock man arrested last year after he was found with more than 260 grams of fentanyl has been sentenced in federal court to four and a half years in prison.

William Smeal, 34, was arrested in Ellsworth in February 2019 and charged with possession with intent to distribute fentanyl after Maine Drug Enforcement Agency officers found more than 100 grams of the synthetic opioid in his car.

Smeal was among more than two dozen people in Hancock and Washington counties who were arrested or charged by the FBI in May 2019 on various drug trafficking charges.

U.S. District Judge Lance E. Walker ordered Smeal to serve four years of supervised release after he is released from prison. Smeal pleaded guilty on January 21, 2020 and was sentenced by Walker on Tuesday.

Fentanyl is usually prescribed for severe pain but is sold illegally for its heroin-like effect, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s often added into doses of heroin — users are generally unaware — and is 50 times more potent than heroin. A lethal dose of fentanyl is about 3 milligrams.

The FBI raids in Downeast Maine in the spring of 2019 followed months of investigation by state, county and federal officials into the acquisition of cocaine, heroin and fentanyl in New York City and its distribution in eastern Maine, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Smeal was found to have the largest quantity of drugs of all those people.

In February of 2019, after suspecting that Smeal was involved in drug trafficking, police installed a tracker on his car and conducted a traffic stop in Ellsworth as Smeal was returning from a trip to Massachusetts.

Upon searching Smeal’s car, investigators found 111 grams of what they initially said was heroin but after testing proved to be fentanyl, according to an affidavit. On the same day, a search of Smeal’s home revealed 36 additional grams of fentanyl.

A month later, investigators got a tip that there were more drugs in his car — which had been impounded upon his arrest in February — and after a second search, found 118 grams of previously undiscovered fentanyl.

The estimated street value of the fentanyl seized from Smeal was more than $50,000, police said at the time.

Following his release from prison, Smeal has to report to a probation officer. The terms of his supervised release say that he can’t use or possess alcohol or any other intoxicant, is required to participate in a program for drug and alcohol use therapy and has to enroll in workforce training programs or sign up for community service.