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Mass. authorities bust 'major' drug ring

By Glenn Drohan
The Berkshire Eagle

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Authorities have smashed what they described as a major drug ring that had been supplying heroin and crack cocaine throughout the region, arresting five people with ties to Adams on Wednesday and Thursday and a Pittsfield man on Thursday night.

After a three-month investigation, police made the arrests in separate raids at a second-floor apartment at 58 Howland Ave. in Adams, at room 197 of the Howard Johnson motel in Williamstown, outside a Linden Street house in Pittsfield, and at 28 Water St. in Greenfield.

Police seized about $7,000 worth of heroin, a safe and a .22-caliber derringer in the Greenfield raid, $6,400 worth of heroin in the Pittsfield arrest and about $2,000 worth of crack cocaine in the North Berkshire raids, according to the Berkshire County Drug Task Force.

The task force has issued an arrest warrant for the suspected ringleader of the group, Sean "P.R." McGirt, 37, whose last address was 58 Howland Ave., but who may have fled out of state after his wife, Lisa McGirt, was arrested in the raid at their Greenfield apartment.

"This is a major drug ring that has been selling crack cocaine in this county for quite awhile," Lt. Joseph McDyer, task force commander, said yesterday. "It started off as a cocaine ring, and that's what we went after. But as it progressed to the end here, there was stash of heroin in Greenfield that we intercepted that was coming to Berkshire County through this same organization."

In the Greenfield raid by the Franklin-Hampshire Narcotics Task Force at 5:40 a.m. on Thursday, police arrested McGirt's wife, 26, also known as Lisa Timoney, who is originally from Adams.

Police, acting on a search warrant after receiving a tip from the Berkshire County Drug Task Force, seized 370 small bags of heroin packaged for sale, along with the safe and the handgun at the home, according to court documents.

Police reports state that Lisa McGirt was acting as a "mule" for her husband's drug operation, transporting large quantities of cocaine and heroin to Adams for distribution in North Berkshire and that their Greenfield apartment had been used as a "stash house" for the drugs.

The couple has two children, ages 3 and 6, who were living in the apartment, and according to the police report, the handgun was found wrapped in a sock and hidden in the sleeve of a pink, size 3 toddler's jacket. The apartment is within 860 feet of Green River Elementary School.

In the raid at 58 Howland Ave. on Wednesday night, Berkshire County Task Force members arrested Sahsha Pellot, 29, of that address, her sister, Shamaya Ashley, 24, of the Howard Johnson's motel in Williamstown, and Chandra Bourelle, 23, of 11 Sayles St., Adams.

In the raid at Howard Johnson's, police arrested Antonio Spruill, 23, who had registered with Ashley for the room. They are engaged to be married and have three young children, including a newborn, who have been living with Pellot, according to court documents.

McDyer said the state Department of Social Services was called in to assist in all cases because of the young children involved.

He said the Pittsfield arrest of Ricardo Lozada, 30, of Crane Avenue in that city, just after 10 p.m. on Thursday, was also connected to Sean McGirt's alleged drug operation. According to court reports, police confiscated eight grams of heroin worth about $6,400 from Lozado.

Police reports state that Pellot, Spruill, Ashley and Bourelle, among other North County residents who have not been charged, were acting as "subordinates" to Sean McGirt and were required to give him nearly daily reports on drug sales and to keep track of inventory.

All of the North County defendants except Bourelle, who is scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 5, pleaded not guilty to charges Friday in Northern Berkshire District Court.

Judge Michael Ripps ordered Pellot held at the Berkshire County House of Correction in lieu of $10,000 cash bail or $100,000 surety on four counts of distribution of crack cocaine, three counts of a school-zone drug violation and one count of conspiracy to violate drug laws.

Spruill was ordered held in lieu of $2,500 cash bail or $25,000 surety on six counts of crack distribution, four counts of school-zone drug violations and one count of conspiracy. Ashley was ordered held in lieu of $1,200 cash bail or $12,500 surety on five counts of crack distribution and one count of conspiracy.

In Central Berkshire District Court, Lozada was ordered held in lieu of $5,000 cash bail or $50,000 surety on one count of possession of heroin with intent to distribute (second offense) and one count of possession of marijuana.

In Greenfield District Court, Lisa McGirt was ordered held in the Franklin County Jail in lieu of $10,000 cash bail or $100,000 surety on one count of possession of heroin with intent to distribute, one count of a school-zone drug violation and one count each of illegal possession of a firearm, illegal possession of a firearm while in commission of a felony and one count of improper storage of a firearm.

Detective Larry Ordyna of the Adams Police Department said authorities executed search warrants in all three North County raids, which were the conclusion of a long investigation involving police officers from several departments.

"They were using apartments in Adams, and hotels in Adams and Williamstown to deal crack cocaine," Ordyna said.

"There were several transactions done with the sale of crack cocaine to informants and undercover police officers."

According to court documents, Spruill and Ashley had sold drugs at their apartment at 2 Jordan St. in Adams until being evicted after a bank foreclosed on the property in December. They later moved the operation to the Dugout Motel on Route 8 in Adams and then to the Williamstown motel, the documents state.

McDyer said he believes the drug busts will put a dent in heroin and crack cocaine distribution in the region for a while, but probably not for long.

"For a time, this will make a difference, but unfortunately, it's very easily replaced. Somebody will make up the shortfall very quickly," he said. "The thing that people have to understand with these types of organizations is that it's just as easy for them to find other people to get heroin. If there's a demand for it, they'll find it."

He added, "Police officers worked very hard on this case. Hopefully, it will deter some people, but we're not kidding ourselves. It will be back, probably very fast."

He said he expected Sean McGirt would be arrested soon.

"We want him, and we'll find him."

Det. Lt. Joseph Burge of the Franklin-Hampshire task force said police forces throughout the region collaborated well in the drug raids, but he credited the Berkshire County force with doing the bulk of the work.

"Most everything happened on their behalf. They called up and we assisted them," Burge said. "They helped us get rid of somebody very bad who had just moved into our area."

Despite the arrests in Greenfield and North Berkshire, McDyer said he believed the bulk of heroin and crack cocaine distribution continues to operate with Pittsfield as a hub.

"We just happened to intercept it in North County, for the most part, this time," he said.

Massachusetts State Police and police departments in Adams, North Adams, Williamstown, Dalton, Lenox and Pittsfield assisted in the investigations.

Copyright 2008 The Bershire Eagle

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