Clair Deslandes, 58, has a history of federal drug convictions

Hartford Rest Area bust nets three

Submitted 2 years ago
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Eric Francis

Northeast Kingdom men face heroin trafficking and drug conspiracy charges

HARTFORD, VT - Three Northeast Kingdom men intercepted in the midst of returning to Vermont with over 1,400 bags of heroin during what Vermont State Police troopers say was a drug run down to Connecticut were brought into court Friday for arraignment on multiple felony charges.

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    Clair Deslandes, 58, of Island Pond pleaded innocent to felony charges of heroin trafficking, trafficking heroin into the state, and drug conspiracy.

    Travis Pelletier, 27, of Brighton also pleaded innocent to the same three charges.

    Logan Dupuis, 20, of Newport was charged with only the two trafficking felonies to which he also pleaded innocent.

    Dupuis faces a maximum potential sentence of up to 40 years in prison as opposed to the other two men who are each facing a theoretical maximum of 50 years in the event they were to be convicted.

Logan Dupuis, 20, (left) with his public defender, attorney Erik Braghirol in court Friday

    Deslandes was described in court by his public defender as having worked for the past nine years at the Ethan Allen furniture factory in Orleans and Pelletier was described as a self-employed logger who, like Deslandes, owns a home in Island Pond and is raising several children.

    Deslandes was ordered held for lack of $10,000 bail.  Pelletier was released on an unsecured appearance bond and Dupuis was released into the custody of his mother pending trial.

    The men were arrested Thursday after a state trooper, acting on a tip that claimed Deslandes "commonly purchases approximately 2,000 bags of heroin during his trips to Connecticut," tailed the car the trio were riding in down Interstate 91 a short distance into Massachusetts before breaking off the surveillance and then setting up alongside I-91 in Hartland later to see if the car came back.

    Sgt. John Helfant said that he and Trooper Richard Slusser, who has a police canine, positioned their cruisers in a U-turn late Thursday afternoon and, after waiting about 40 minutes, spotted the same 2015 black Chevy Cruz that he had been following earlier in the day speeding up the northbound lane.  

    When the troopers lit it up with their blue lights, the car pulled into the Hartford Rest Area with Pelletier at the wheel.

    Trooper Slusser wrote in an affidavit filed with the court that when he walked up to the car he immediately noticed that both of the passengers had "freshly lit cigarettes and that the front seat passenger's (Dupuis) hands were trembling excessively, more than would be normal for a routine traffic stop."

    Pelletier allegedly told the troopers that the group was returning from a trip to Ascutney to look at a pickup truck which they decided not to buy since it was "all rusted out."  Sgt. Helfant noted that explanation did not jibe with the car having been spotted leaving the state hours beforehand. 

Travis Pelletier, 27, of Brighton allegedly had a handful of heroin bags in his pocket when the car was stopped.

    A heroin bag on the back seat next to Deslandes was another clue the troopers said they spotted before all three occupants were removed from the car, handcuffed, and searched.

    Dupuis allegedly had "a glass marijuana pipe and a hollowed out pen with an off-white powdery residue on it" in his pockets and a check of Pelletier's pockets turned up nine full bags of heroin, Helfant wrote in his affidavit.

    Canine "Drager" did a walk around the vehicle and "alerted" on the car as two more troopers rolled in to the rest area to help with the search effort.  Inside the trunk, in a small void space formed by the wheel well the troopers said they found a camo sweatshirt with a white plastic bag stuffed in the front pouch and inside the bag were over a thousand light blue, yellow, and white bags of heroin.

    Another seven bags of heroin were found inside the passenger door cubby hole and another stray bag was found on the backseat after the car was seized.  Police also seized the GPS device in the car which they said indicated it had just been driven to an address in Hartford, Connecticut.

    In all, the troopers reported finding 1,418 bags of heroin, the equivalent of approximately 35 grams worth, and Sgt. Helfant said that after waiving his Miranda rights, Deslandes allegedly confessed to having bought 1,500 bags just a few hours beforehand in Connecticut at a wholesale price of $3 a bag.

    Police said that Pelletier also confessed to having done the driving that day in exchange for ten bags of heroin from Deslandes.

    Dupuis also waived his Miranda rights, according to the troopers,  but he explained "that he was just along for the ride and had no involvement," Sgt. Helfant wrote.

    Helfant said that a subsequent search of Dupuis' cellphone turned up texts that allegedly "also indicate that he was purchasing heroin."

Clair Deslandes, 58, owns a home and supports two teenage children in Island Pond, his attorney told the court Friday.

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