Middletown police cracking down on drug activity following big cocaine bust – Middletown Press

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Amari’s market at 44 Grand St. in Middletown.
Middletown police alleged a worker and the owner of Amari’s market have been selling cocaine and other drugs out of the Grand Street business.
Amari’s market at 44 Grand St. in Middletown.
MIDDLETOWN — In an overall effort to combat the rising number of overdose deaths in Middletown, police have been actively cracking down on illegal drug sales across the city.
Last week, authorities announced they arrested the owner and an employee of Amari’s market at 44 Grand St. Nov. 11, after a search of the premises turned up nearly 1 kilo of cocaine, marijuana and a handgun.
Officers seized individually packaged marijuana, vape pens containing THC, about 15.7 ounces of marijuana “product” and 983.5 grams of cocaine, they said. Police also allegedly located items they said were evidence of drug sales, including scales, packaging supplies and suspected “cutting agents” used in narcotics sales.
A gun also was found, the report indicates, and, according to an evidence photo, two drones.
Owner Roan Brown, 38, and Justin Henderson, 40, who was working at the time, both are charged with narcotics possession, possession of more than 8 ounces of marijuana, and possession with intent to sell more than a half-ounce of cocaine. They also are charged with related drug offenses and criminal possession of both a firearm and ammunition.
“Our officers, detectives and civilian staff have committed to providing the highest quality of services, to include criminal investigations like this one, to protect the most vulnerable,” Police Chief Erik Costa said Monday.
The arrests followed a lengthy investigation stemming from complaints of illegal sales from the building, police said. Information from the community identified the location as having drug activity, Costa said. The public was concerned that the market may have been selling illegal goods, the chief added.
Amari’s is located at the former site of Connecticut Cleaners, which occupied the space for some 63 years.
It’s unclear whether the establishment is closed only temporarily.  The sign outside the store said “open” Monday afternoon, but the establishment was dark inside and appeared unoccupied.
A month ago, Health Department Director Kevin Elak said the city had seen a “significant” spike in overdoses over the prior two weeks, the majority of which were attributed to illegal drugs laced with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid being peddled by “predatory” dealers.
Between Oct. 23 and 31, seven overdoses were reported in Middletown, three of which were fatal, he said. 
Middletown Fire Chief Jay Woron reported at a Dec. 1 chamber meeting that the trio of deaths occurred in the North End.
Between Nov. 1 to Dec. 5 there were 10 total suspected overdoses, eight of which were reversed with Naloxone, according to Elak, who provided figures from the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program.
“We hope that these type of law enforcement actions decrease as we look to provide services to combat addiction through our [counselor-in-training] program and strong partnership with River Valley Services and St. Vincent dePaul [Middletown],” Costa said.
Two months ago, SVDP Middletown Executive Director Maryellen Shuckerow and Costa worked together to open the gated garden at the corner of Green and Main streets  on certain days to create a place for people to enjoy the outdoors, engage in conversation and other positive activities — rather than hanging around, they said.
Costa explained in early October that the project was launched following complaints from Shuckerow and others about increased drug and alcohol consumption on the street, which sometimes had led to violence.
Henderson was being held in lieu of a $100,000 bond and was given a return date of Jan. 23 at Middlesex Superior Court; Brown was being detained in lieu of a $500,000 bond and is due back in court Dec. 12.
Brown also has a pending case stemming from an Oct. 18 arrest in which he was charged with second-degree larceny, first-degree identity theft, second-degree forgery (all felonies) and misdemeanor charges related to credit card forgery and identity theft, according to judicial records.
Arrests are continuing. On Nov. 10, the department seized narcotics and guns from a property on Stevenson Lane, off Highland Avenue.
Richard Vallillo, 36, of Stevens Lane, is charged with operation of a drug factory, use of drug paraphernalia, possession of less than an ounce of heroin/methadone with intent to sell, sale of less than a half-ounce of cocaine/free base, sale of narcotic substances, possession of a controlled substance (second offense), illegal alteration of firearm identification, illegal possession of firearms and a pistol/revolver, and illegal possession of a large magazine obtained before April 5, 2013.
Vallillo was held in lieu of a $500,000 bond and is expected at Middlesex Superior Court Dec. 20, judicial records show.
“I am extremely proud of  the Middletown Police Department, as it has encouraged the approach of the officers to be positive and professional to the standards to which our city expects,” the chief said.
The cooperation of community stakeholders is key to curbing such crimes, Costa pointed out. “Our community is at its strongest when working together with our stakeholders in the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce, mayor’s office, city departments and other state agencies, to develop strategies that are long-lasting,” he said.
Peter Yankowski contributed to this article.
Cassandra Day is an award-winning multimedia journalist and resident of the North End of Middletown who has been reporting nearly every facet of the city for over two decades.


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