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Police: 10 arrested in major drug raid

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION —Concern over a child’s safety and frequent visitors at a Chester apartment netted several arrests and $30,000 in illegal drugs, including some found stuffed in children’s clothing, police said.

Chester Police Officer Mark Phelps, a 15-year veteran of the department, said Wednesday that it’s the largest drug bust he’s witnessed in Chester.

The officer said he believed drug dealers are looking for rural locations to conduct drug trafficking.

“I think they’re looking for smaller communities to set up shop where the spotlight isn’t focused on them yet,” Phelps said. “There isn’t the spotlight here like in Rutland County. (Drug pushers) are looking for smaller communities to blend in a little bit easier and not be noticed.”

Ten people arrested in the bust on Tuesday were arraigned Wednesday in criminal court in White River Junction. Several face charges of drug possession, others distribution and one woman faces a charge of cruelty to a child.

Chester Police and federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents searched the apartment of Eric Hale, 37, and his girlfriend, Kaleena Smith, 29 of 108 Pleasant St. on Tuesday. Police said they confiscated $30,000 in drugs, including 665 bags of heroin worth $20,000, 62.2 grams of crack cocaine, one gram of cocaine worth $6,200, 133 OxyContin pills worth $4,000 and $18,000 in cash.

Hale and Smith were arrested along with six people from New Jersey and two from Vermont who were in the apartment at the time including Henry

Caledron, 22, Yder Castillo, 20 and Jose Sanchez, 21, of Jersey City, N.J.; Xavier Benitez, 29, and Jason Artega, 21, of Union City, N.J.; Miguel Zayas, 26, of Newark, N.J.; Ryan Bartley, 20, of Chester and William Aviles, 35, of Springfield.

Caledron, Castillo, Sanchez, Artega and Zayas have extensive criminal records in New Jersey, according to Deputy State’s Attorney Heidi Remick. Judge Robert Gerety set their bail at $750,000 each. They are being held at Springfield prison. Bartley and Aviles are being held on $15,000 and $50,000 cash bail respectively due to local ties in the community. Each was charged with one count of heroin and crack cocaine trafficking and face up to 30 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines for each charge.

Hale and Smith face different charges in the case. Hale was charged with one count each of heroin and crack cocaine trafficking and narcotics possession, while Smith faces one count each of heroin and cocaine trafficking, narcotics possession and child cruelty.

If convicted, Hale faces up to 65 years in prison and over $6 million in fines while Smith faces 67 years and over $6 million in fines. Due to their ties to the local community, Hale is being held at a lower bail amount, $150,000, while Smith was released on $10,000 unsecured bail.

Chester Police began their investigation after they were informed of “a dramatic increase in foot and vehicle traffic” at Hale and Smith’s apartment, according to Phelps, a Chester police officer. In addition, Chester Police Officer Matt Wilson said he was contacted by the state Department of Children and Families after they received an anonymous tip concerning a child living in the apartment. During the sweep of the apartment, police said they found a large amount of cash in the child’s room stuffed inside the child’s clothing, along with 29

OxyContin pills in a bottle underneath a chair in the child’s room. The child is now in state’s custody.

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