Allegedly Stole Heroin for Friend
It is now a waiting game for former Royalton Police Officer John Breault to see how federal prosecutors plan to proceed with an investigation linking him to the theft of heroin from the police department’s evidence closet so he could help a female friend with her opioid addiction, court records show.
Breault, 31, appeared in U.S. District Court in Burlington Friday to face a criminal complaint filed by the FBI for a felony charge of intentionally distributing heroin on the weekend of July 22-23. The FBI maintains Breault gave the heroin to an addict with whom he had a sexual relationship.
Breault, a 2005 Randolph Union High School graduate, and the woman, who was not fully identified in court papers, have known each other since they attended high school together.
The woman is only referred to as a confidential informant (CI) in court papers, which also indicate Breault feared the woman might tell her ex-husband about his giving her the drug evidence.
Court records include a Facebook message to the woman from Breault saying, “I gave you pills and H from evidence and I will get arrested and fired.” The “H” is an apparent reference to heroin.
U.S. Magistrate John M. Conroy explained in court to Breault that he is entitled to a probable cause hearing at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 13.
Conroy said if a federal grand jury were to return an indictment in the case in the interim, he loses the right to the hearing. Instead, he would be arraigned on any charges the grand jury filed, Conroy explained. Breault, who lives in Randolph, is not expected to enter a plea in the federal prosecution until there is a formal arraignment. The session last Friday—known as an initial hearing—was to explain any criminal charges and see if the defendant was entitled to be released.
Breault, an eight-year veteran of the Royalton Police Department, declined comment to news reporters as he left the federal courthouse with his father.
Defense attorney Robert Katims of Burlington said his client is prepared to deal with the case.
“John’s resigned from the police department and he understands there will be other consequences, and we are here today to begin that process,” Katims said.
“John doesn’t use drugs. He wasn’t peddling drugs on the street,” he said.
“The allegation is that he had a serious lapse of judgment and that he helped out a friend who was a drug addict,” Katims said.
Former Royalton Police Officer John Breault declines comment as he leaves federal court on Friday morning where he appeared for an initial hearing. (Photo by Mike Donoghue)
Besides the heroin, Breault also allegedly allowed his friend to obtain narcotics deposited in the department’s “drug take-back box.” It is part of a national program operated by many police agencies that permits residents to surrender medications no longer needed.
Breault could learn more about his future legal problems over one of the next three Thursdays. The federal grand jury in Burlington often meets on Thursdays to hear testimony and decide about possible indictments.
Breault also has one other connection to Randolph. He has served as a part-time security guard at Vermont Technical College.
VTC President Pat Moulton said Breault “has put himself on leave and he is expected to resign shortly.” She said he last worked Labor Day weekend.
Breault also worked for about 16 months for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in 2008-09.
Conroy agreed to follow the recommendation of the Federal Pretrial Services office that Breault be released without bail on conditions, including staying away from any potential witnesses. The veteran magistrate said Breault was a lifelong Vermont resident, had family ties, had no known history of drug use or criminal record.
Conroy did add a requirement that Breault refrain from possessing any firearms.
It was unclear if Breault had any personal firearms at home, but he had surrendered all his police gear when he resigned, court records show.
This marks the third case involving drugs and other items being stolen out of evidence rooms at Vermont police agencies.
Earlier incidents were reported at the Colchester Police in November 2014, when a detective and an addict were arrested, and at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in December 2016, when a dispatcher was arrested along with two friends she allowed into the secure area where drugs and other items were stored, officials said.
The Case Unfolds
Breault and the unnamed woman began a sexual relationship in the summer of 2017, FBI Special Agent Colin M. Simon said in a court affidavit.
Among the drugs believed stolen from the evidence closet were 78 bags of suspected heroin and 130 prescription pills that Breault had seized on June 21, records show.
Sterling Daniel, 26, was found passed out in a car on Chelsea Street in Royalton, Breault had said at the time. The FBI affidavit noted a picture of the heroin and comments from Breault were subsequently featured in The Herald of Randolph.
Breault resigned abruptly on September 11, citing personal reasons. Two days later, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration arrived in town to look at the police evidence closet.
DEA Agent Tim Hoffman had spoken to the confidential informant on September 11 and 12, Simons said. He wrote the woman, who has no criminal record, said she was an addict, but claimed she had become sober in late August.
According to court papers she told Hoffman the following:
Beginning in July she would accompany Breault to the Royalton Police Station on multiple occasions and she was seen there with her children. During one visit, he opened the evidence closet and removed prescription drugs and heroin that had been seized.
“Over the following week, Breault gave the CI a ration of heroin and prescription drugs to avoid going through withdrawal. Breault told her the heroin and prescription drugs were from an arrest he conducted,” Simons wrote.
Breault told the addict if she wanted to get high he should be present because it would be safer. “Breault then drove the CI to the Royalton PD and opened the secure drug-take-back box and allowed the CI to search for and take prescription drugs,” Simons wrote. She said she did that about seven times.
She obtained Fentanyl patches, 10-30 milligram quantities of Oxycodone and Zoloft. She would chew the Fentanyl patches and Breault would dispose of the prescription bottles.
The CI also claimed Breault would withdraw $100 to $200 from his Lake Sunapee Bank account and give her the money so she could buy a bundle (10 bags) of heroin, Simons wrote. She estimated that she used his money 10 times to buy heroin and would snort it with him in the car. She would dispose of the empty baggies by throwing them out of the car or in garbage cans at gasoline stations.
Simons outlined a series of text messages between Breault and the drug addict on August 25. The woman pressed Breault to get her some prescription narcotics. “I have a knife in my hand and want to die,” she wrote.
Breault wrote back, “Okay, please hang in there a little bit I’ll get there as soon as I can.”
He wrote that two people—identified as Gary and Troy—were with him and he would have to get the drugs “without them seeing,” Simons wrote.
The woman claimed Breault brought her Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication.
While Breault is charged with only the July 22-23 incident, the affidavit mentions another episode.
The woman reported Breault took heroin and pills from the evidence closet on July 14, Simons said. She said she received six heroin bags and went to a hotel in New Hampshire with Breault.
Policing in Royalton
Breault was the Town of Royalton’s sole full-time officer since Chief Jim Beraldi resigned in April after less than a year on the force.
That has left the town of 2,700 with part-time officer Gary Rogler and constable Marc Preston, who has taken on part-time policing duties, to fulfill the town’s law enforcement needs.
Despite this shortage, Royalton, in a Tuesday evening selectboard meeting, declined an offer from the Windsor County Sheriff to contract with that agency for coverage.
Instead, the town elected to continue a search for a replacement chief and full-time officer and, in the meantime, make do with its part-timers.