The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont announced that Chyquan Cupe, aka “Cash,” was sentenced yesterday to 9 years of imprisonment for possessing firearms in furtherance of his drug trafficking activities and being the leader of a drug trafficking conspiracy which distributed cocaine base, heroin, and fentanyl in the area of Brattleboro, Vermont. Chief U.S. District Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford also sentenced Cupe to a 4-year term of supervised release to follow his imprisonment.
According to Court documents, Cupe was the leader and organizer of a drug trafficking organization which distributed narcotics from an apartment located at 33 Oak Street in Brattleboro over a five-month period. On December 28, 2018, Brattleboro Police Officers executed a state search warrant at the apartment, resulting in the seizure of a sawed-off shotgun, a .38 caliber handgun with an obliterated serial number, a nautical flare gun, and a safe. Inside the safe, officers located approximately 200 grams of cocaine base, 68 oxycodone/morphine pills of various dosages, numerous rounds of ammunition, and a bill of sale for a vehicle purchased by Cupe. After this search, Cupe was a fugitive, but the drug trafficking activities continued at the 33 Oak Street apartment unabated.
A Southern Vermont Drug Task Force investigation in January and February 2019 resulted in multiple controlled purchases of heroin and fentanyl from Desiree Wells-Cooper and Linda Wainwright. On February 28, 2019, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Southern Vermont Drug Task Force executed a federal search warrant at the 33 Oak Street apartment, resulting in the seizure of approximately 10 grams of cocaine, 5 grams of cocaine base, a 9mm pistol, and $2,500 of U.S. currency. Wells-Cooper, Wainwright, Juan Sanchez, Jr., and Francis Macie were all arrested on federal drug trafficking charges.
Subsequent witness interviews and searches of the contents of cellular phones and Facebook accounts revealed that Cupe’s drug organization trafficked hundreds of grams of heroin and hundreds of grams of cocaine base into Brattleboro for distribution. The investigation also revealed that Pedro Ocasio, aka “Pluto,” played a vital role in the drug trafficking. After Cupe became a fugitive, Ocasio supervised and managed the drug distribution activities at 33 Oak Street, Ocasio collected drug proceeds on Cupe’s behalf, and Ocasio armed himself with firearms to protect the illicit drugs being sold at the apartment. The investigation also revealed that Cupe transported drugs from Connecticut to Brattleboro by using multiple female coconspirators, including a 17-year-old child suffering from substance abuse disorder.
During the investigation of Ocasio’s involvement in Cupe’s drug trafficking organization, Ocasio was arrested on July 29, 2019 for aggravated assault stemming from a shooting at the intersection of Elliot Street and Elm Street in Brattleboro, Vermont. On August 14, 2019, Ocasio was charged by the federal grand jury with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances along with Cupe, Wells-Cooper, Wainwright, Sanchez, and others.
Chief Judge Crawford sentenced Ocasio to 8 years of imprisonment for his possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking. Wainwright received a sentence of 4 years of imprisonment for her role in the drug trafficking conspiracy. Sanchez was sentenced to time served for his drug trafficking activity and possession of firearms, which equated to approximately 13 months of imprisonment. For hosting the drug traffickers in his apartment, Macie received a time-served sentence which equated to approximately 8 months of imprisonment. Wells-Cooper is currently a participant in the Burlington Federal Drug Court, after she pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute controlled substances.
United States Attorney Christina E. Nolan commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Vermont State Police, and the Brattleboro Police Department. Nolan added: “This violent and heavily armed drug trafficking organization openly and notoriously peddled poison in Brattleboro, undeterred by multiple police enforcement efforts. This case highlights the violence that follows drug trafficking, and the dangers to the most vulnerable Vermonters. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will continue to pursue out-of-state profit-driven drug traffickers and the Vermonters who facilitate their crimes.”
“Mr. Cupe is a dangerous individual who terrorized the Brattleboro community with his violent behavior,” said Thomas F. Relford, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Albany Field Office. “This sentencing should prove the FBI, along with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners, is focused on stopping the movement and sale of drugs on our streets and ensuring our neighborhoods are free from illegal firearms.”
“ATF will continue to work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners, to vigorously combat drug traffickers and the threat they pose to our citizens by illegally possessing firearms in furtherance of their illegal drug trade,” stated Kelly D. Brady Special Agent in Charge, ATF Boston Field Division
“This case is another fine example of local, state, and federal law enforcement collaborating in their investigations to take down a violent drug trafficking organization,” added Major Daniel Trudeau of the Vermont State Police. “The Brattleboro community is now a safer place with this group off the streets.”
Brattleboro Police Chief Michael Fitzgerald stated, “The Brattleboro Police Department appreciates the time and effort invested by partner law enforcement agencies in this cooperative investigation and prosecution. Several illegal guns and deadly drugs were removed from our streets, and dangerous offenders are being held accountable. Our department remains committed to assisting those struggling with substance use disorder to get the treatment they need, while at the same time aggressively investigating armed drug dealers.”
The United States was represented in this matter by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan A. Ophardt. Cupe was represented by Assistant Federal Defender David McColgin, Esq. Ocasio was represented by Thomas Sherrer, Esq. Wainwright was represented by Ernest Allen, Esq. Macie was represented by John-Claude Charbonneau, Esq. Wells-Cooper was represented by Mark D. Oettinger, Esq.
This prosecution is part of an extensive investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Program. OCDETF is a joint federal, state, and local cooperative approach to combat drug trafficking and is the nation’s primary tool for disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations, targeting national and regional level drug trafficking organizations, and coordinating the necessary law enforcement entities and resources to disrupt or dismantle the targeted criminal organization and seize their assets.