Barton Residence Searched and Woman Arrested on Federal Drug Charges

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FILE PHOTO: American flag waves outside the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington

The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont stated that Vermont resident Erika Desormeaux, 36, was arrested and held in federal custody following the search of her residence on Maple Hill Road in Barton, Vermont this morning. Desormeaux is charged in a criminal complaint alleging she conspired with two other individuals, Nathaniel Jamal “JJ” Jones and Jermaine R. “Bear” Douchette, to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, including cocaine and fentanyl, between August 28, 2022 and today. Jones and Douchette—both formerly of Springfield, Massachusetts—were not located during the search of the Barton residence, and warrants remain active for their arrest in this case. Desormeaux is scheduled to make her initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Kevin J. Doyle in the Burlington federal courthouse tomorrow.

According to an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, Desormeaux distributed controlled substances from her Barton residence and allowed other individuals to do the same—including Jones and Douchette, whom she regularly hosted at the residence. Investigators arranged the purchase of cocaine and fentanyl from the defendants on multiple occasions between August and October 2022, and most of those transactions occurred at Desormeaux’s residence. As alleged in the affidavit, witnesses described the conspirators’ possession and acquisition of firearms during the investigation, and Desormeaux herself purchased a firearm in June 2022 that she traded for fentanyl.

The charges in the criminal complaint against Desormeaux, Jones, and Douchette are accusations only, and they are each presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in further proceedings. If convicted of the crime of conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine and fentanyl, each defendant would face a maximum possible penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000. The actual sentences, however, would be determined by the Court with guidance from the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

United States Attorney Nikolas P. Kerest commended the investigatory efforts of the Northern Vermont Drug Task Force (NVDTF) and thanked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) for planning and executing this morning’s search. NVDTF and ATF also collaborated with and received support from the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department, the Vermont State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations, the Newport Police Department (NPD), and Homeland Security Investigations.

“This case involves not only the distribution of deadly substances but also the acquisition and transfer of firearms to the drug distributors,” said U.S. Attorney Nikolas Kerest. “Our community is too familiar with the drug-fueled violence that has made its way into our cities and into smaller towns throughout Vermont. We will continue to investigate and charge the individuals who host drug dealers in their homes and straw purchase firearms for them.”

Orleans Sheriff Jennifer Harlow commented on the property and violent crime resulting from drug trafficking in Orleans County.  “The Orleans County Sheriff’s Department is committed to working with our state and federal partners to combat drug and firearms trafficking,” she said. “Drug addiction and the often-violent drug dealers taking advantage of our community have a perilous impact on all of us. It is important for us to collaborate to fight dangerous drugs and to keep firearms out of the hands of those who would do harm with them.” 

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“We know that violence and drug trafficking are frequently associated with each other,” said Paul Massock, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Boston Field Division. “By working with our local, state, and federal partners in operations like the one today, ATF is one step closer toward reversing the devastating trends of overdoses and drug-related violence threatening Vermont. ATF will continue to work diligently alongside our law enforcement partners to ensure that our communities are safe from drug and firearm trafficking, and the violent crime that often goes along with it.”

The United States is represented in this matter by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Lasher. Natasha Sen, Esq. has been appointed to represent Desormeaux for her initial appearance. Counsel will be selected by or appointed for Jones and Douchette upon their arrests and initial appearances.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.  For more information about Project Safe Neighborhoods, please visit https://www.justice.gov/psn