By GAYLA CAWLEY
LYNN — A Lynn man arrested and charged with Class A drug trafficking — after police executed a search warrant and found heroin, fentanyl and oxycontin in his apartment — was arraigned in Lynn District Court Wednesday afternoon.
Brian Aquino, 34, of 8 Hart St., was arrested and charged Tuesday with trafficking a Class A drug over 200 grams, two counts of trafficking a Class A drug over 28 grams and possession of a Class B drug at 10:11 a.m. Tuesday.
Aquino was being arrested on a violent fugitive from justice warrant when officers — with responders from the State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension section and Lynn Police Gang Unit — observed what they believed to be heroin, Lynn Police Lt. Rick Donnelly said.
Bail was set for $2.5 million, but Aquino was also ordered held without bail on the violent fugitive from justice warrant.
Aquino was the subject of a two year Maine Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) investigation, which resulted in the arrests of 15 people for conspiracy to traffic in heroin Tuesday after indictments were handed down by the Oxford County Grand Jury. Aquino is allegedly the supplier to the two main heroin suppliers of the group, according to the Maine DEA.
Maine DEA Director Roy McKinney said the investigation was likely the largest drug investigation in Oxford County history.
The two year MDEA investigation, along with Oxford County law enforcement and Maine state police, revealed that between January 2013 and April 2015, the 15 suspects were responsible for the importation and distribution of 17.8 pounds of heroin throughout Oxford County. That amount is the equivalent of 80,000 dosages and a street value of $3.2 million, according to the MDEA.
In November 2013, MDEA agents began an investigation into oxycodone and heroin distribution in Oxford County after information was provided to those agents by a Maine state trooper following a motor vehicle stop, according to the MDEA.
That investigation to identify and infiltrate the heroin distribution network, which McKinney attributes to that tip from the motor vehicle stop, revealed that Del Hathaway, 26, of Saco, Maine, and his girlfriend, Brianna Thayer, 26, of Bean Station, TN were the main suppliers of heroin to the group. Hathaway and Thayer bought large amounts from Aquino, their supplier, in Lynn, and distributed it in Maine, according to the MDEA.
Hathaway had moved to Maine from Lowell to oversee the heroin operation, while Thayer is originally from Maine but recently moved to Tennessee. Information gathered from the investigation, including interviews, surveillances and undercover purchases of oxycodone and heroin from several members of the group, confirmed that the common source of the heroin was Hathaway and Thayer and that their Massachusetts connection was Aquino.
On Tuesday in Lynn, police secured Aquino’s apartment and obtained and executed a search warrant from Lynn District Court after observing what was believed to be heroin. Officers returned with the warrant and found over 200 grams of heroin, over 28 grams of oxycontin, 95 grams of fentanyl and four grams of cocaine, Donnelly said.
Lynn District Court documents listed the amounts at 276 grams of heroin and 95 grams of oxycontin.
Anything over 28 grams of oxycontin, which is usually classified as a Class B drug, is considered a Class A drug. Fentanyl is a dangerous drug that is being mixed with heroin, and is what Lynn police think is a main cause for the increase of heroin overdoses and deaths in the city, Donnelly said.
As of Tuesday, Donnelly said there have been 328 heroin overdoses and 37 deaths in Lynn in 2015. In 2014, there were 290 overdoses and 46 deaths in the city. In 2013, those numbers were 195 and 24 respectively. There have been over five times as many overdoses in 2015 from almost a decade ago in 2006, when there were just 63 overdoses and five deaths from heroin, according to statistics from the Lynn Police Department.
Also found and seized was $2,220 in currency, which was in Aquino’s pocket when he was arrested and drug paraphernalia related to heroin distribution, including digital scales and tin foil, Donnelly said.