December 19, 2013

Ten people face drug charges following Augusta raid

Police arrest members of “violent street gang,” most of whom are from out of state.

By Craig Crosby ccrosby@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — The arrest of 10 people Wednesday on drug trafficking charges is the latest example of how out-of-state gangs are changing the landscape of the illegal drug trade in Maine, police said Thursday.

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Maine drug enforcement agents arrested 10 people — seven of whom list Pennsylvania addresses — during the search of a home at 1 Penley St., which police said was being used by a Chicago-based gang to funnel illegal drugs into Maine.

“The investigation revealed that a number of those charged are members or are affiliated with the violent street gang known as the Almighty Black P. Stones,” said Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Director Roy McKinney in a news release.

McKinney said he is concerned “about the prevalence of organized and often violent out-of-state drug trafficking organizations now operating in the state. This investigation highlights the importance of focused, inter-agency cooperation on these types of investigations.”

Seized during the search at the home in the Eastern Avenue neighborhood were 45 grams of heroin with an estimated street value of $10,000 and approximately five grams of what authorities believe to be methamphetamine, according to the Maine DEA. Nine of the people are charged with aggravated trafficking in heroin. These charges were aggravated because of the amount of heroin that was seized.

If testing proves the substance is methamphetamine, it will be the first time in at least several years that methamphetamine has been seized during a search, said Detective Sgt. Matthew Clark of the Augusta Police. Methamphetamine is highly addictive and chemicals used to make it are dangerous.

Augusta police said Thursday that multiple arrests and drug seizures signal the increased involvement of outside gangs on local drug trafficking. Police said three gangs, the P.Stones, Bloods and Tiny Raskals, have worked in the area. Augusta Police Lt. Keith Brann said the arrival of the gangs over the past few years has been marked by an increase in crime involving weapons, including handguns, and violent crimes, such as assaults, robberies and home invasions.

“This is the worst we’ve ever had it as far as gang stuff,” he said.

Violent criminal records

While the trafficking has had an indirect impact on the general public in the form of home and car burglaries by addicts seeking money to buy drugs, the violence has been limited to those connected to the gang members. The gangs, which want to keep a low profile, have not targeted the general public.

“The average person shouldn’t be scared,” Brann said. “If you’re not involved in this kind of activity, I don’t think you have to be concerned.”

But the gangs’ arrival has made curbing the drug trade much more difficult, and dangerous, for police.

“We’re dealing with dangerous people with violent felony records,” Clark said.

According to court records, two of those arrested Wednesday — Darvent Cummings, 22, and Tyrone Wilkins, 23, both of Stroudsburg, Pa. — have violent criminal records in Maine.

Cummings and Wilkins both were sentenced in fall 2012 to five years in prison with all but two years suspended and two years’ probation after pleading guilty to aggravated criminal trespass and criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon. They and another man allegedly forced their way into the Chase Avenue, Augusta, apartment of two women on April 6, 2012, and threatened them with knives and a handgun.

Cummings was released from custody on those charges on Dec. 4, and Wilkins on Dec. 13, according to Scott Fish, of the Maine Department of Corrections.

Before the gangs set up shop, much of the drug trafficking in central Maine was carried out by locals who would periodically travel to southern New England or beyond to buy drugs and return to Maine to sell them. Police often were familiar with those involved, and the trafficking rarely involved weapons or violent crime. Clark said gang members would pop up from time to time, but over the past few years there has been a steady stream of gang activity.

(Continued on page 2)

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SEIZURE: Several packets of heroin seized Wednesday during a search warrant in Augusta.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

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PUT AWAY: Augusta Police Department Officer Christopher Guay packages several doses of heroin seized Wednesday during the execution of a search warrant in Augusta.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy



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