BENNINGTON — Three men arrested on state charges after a recent drug raid by police at a Main Street residence have now been indicted by a federal grand jury on more charges.
Peter Aleksonis, 55, who lives at the apartment at 546 Main St., is charged in federal court with unlawfully and knowingly allowing his residence to be used for the illegal manufacturing, storing, distributing and use of heroin, crack cocaine and fentanyl, the indictment said.
Aleksonis has been detained since mid-October at the Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility in Rutland on state charges filed by the office of Bennington County State’s Attorney Erica A. Marthage. Those charges include trafficking fentanyl, sale of cocaine, conspiracy to traffic fentanyl and conspiracy to sell regulated drugs.
Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette said after a joint federal and town police raid on the apartment on Oct. 12, it marked the third time the residence maintained by Aleksonis had been searched because of narcotics trafficking.
The longtime chief said Aleksonis “continues to allow gang members from Springfield, Mass., area set up in his home and run a criminal enterprise.”
The federal indictment was unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court in Burlington. It comes after the arrest of a co-defendant in Connecticut by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations on Thursday night.
Christian Torres-Santiago, 20, of Springfield, Mass., had been sought since Nov. 30 when the federal grand jury in Rutland returned the four-count indictment, officials said.
Torres-Santiago was charged with knowingly and intentionally possessing both fentanyl and crack cocaine on Oct. 12 with the intent to distribute the drugs, the federal indictment states.
Torres-Santiago also was charged on Oct. 12 with possession of a firearm — a Colt Series 80 — that had the manufacturer’s serial number removed, altered and obliterated, the indictment said.
The third defendant, Gabriel Lebron, 32, of Florence, Mass., is charged with knowingly possessing 15 rounds of 9 mm ammunition on Oct. 12 after having been convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year in prison, records show.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont also has filed a notice of forfeiture for guns and ammunition. If convicted, Lebron will give up a privately manufactured P80 9 mm firearm, which contained 15 rounds at the time of seizure, the indictment said.
Torres-Santiago, if convicted, will lose the Colt Series 80 and assorted ammunition, records show.
No date has been set for the federal arraignment of the three men.
Lebron is held at the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport on state charges, including fentanyl trafficking, possession of narcotics and committing a crime with a dangerous weapon, records show.
Torres-Santiago also was charged in state court with fentanyl trafficking and possession of cocaine, the Banner previously reported. Bail was set at $15,000, and he was told he could not return to Vermont without a court order.
Doucette said Aleksonis, Lebron and Torres-Santiago were among seven suspects arrested on state charges during the Oct. 12 raid by Bennington Police and Homeland Security Investigations at the large two-story white duplex apartment building.
As police entered the front door, the occupants of the apartment tried to flee out the back door, but were greeted by law enforcement. Investigators subsequently found three guns, 7,200 bags of heroin, more than $7,000 cash, crack cocaine, marijuana and prescription tablets.
One of the seven arrested was Miguel Perez-Agramonte, 18, of Springfield, Mass., a suspect in two recent shootings on Main and Barber streets in Bennington, police said. He subsequently pleaded not guilty to two counts of attempted second-degree murder, sale of fentanyl, and both sale and possession of cocaine.
One of the guns recovered in the apartment had been used in the two shooting incidents. He also is held without bail at prison in Newport.
Perez-Agramonte admitted that he, Lebron and Torres-Santiago are all members of gangs in Massachusetts, police said.
Deputy State’s Attorney Robert Plunkett said in Vermont Superior Court that Aleksonis was hosting a “drug house” and had been involved in several police cases.
Judge Kerry Ann McDonald-Cady said people “just need to be reading the local newspaper” to understand that the address is a common blight on the community, the Banner reported.
Now, federal authorities have filed an indictment to increase the possible penalties and try to slow the drug trafficking flow from out of state.
Authorities have said Bennington has become a target in recent years for out-of-state gangs, including from Springfield, Mass., and Hartford, Conn., to try to set up drug operations. They find local people willing to trade overnight beds for drugs, and also look for young people to be part of the narcotics distribution network.