WINDHAM COUNTY, VT. – The United States Attorney for the District of Vermont, Christina E. Nolan, announced today the results of an 18-month multi-agency enforcement operation targeting the illegal trafficking of firearms and drugs between Vermont and Western Massachusetts. “Operation Fury Road” was a sustained state-wide effort of numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies from Vermont and Massachusetts spanning from October of 2018 to February of 2020. The operation specifically aimed to interdict and deter gun and drug trafficking on Interstate 91 and in surrounding communities. The agencies’ efforts resulted in the prosecution of 82 defendants in federal court for charges related to drug trafficking, unlawful possession of firearms, using firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking, and other federal criminal violations. Photographs of the firearms seized during Operation Fury Road can be found below.
U.S. Attorney Nolan stated: “Today’s announcement of the results of Operation Fury Road represents the pinnacle of sustained multi-agency cooperation focused on the dual threat of deadly narcotics and firearms trafficking. With every seizure of illicit firearms and drugs over the course of 18 months, Vermont families and communities were made safer. All of our federal, state, and local partners brought important resources, expertise, and insights to this effort. It is a reflection of their dedication to the people of Vermont and to the causes of justice and public safety. We will continue to collaborate with our all of our law enforcement partners to stem the flood of deadly poisons into Vermont and prevent firearms from being trafficked to drug-source cities in our neighboring states where they are employed in homicides, shootings, and other forms of violence.”
U.S. Attorney Nolan commended the investigative efforts of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations, the United States Marshals Service, and the Vermont State Police. Multiple local police departments and sheriff’s offices throughout the state assisted throughout the operation.
During the operation, law enforcement seized 128 firearms and 7,511 rounds of ammunition. Of those firearms, 57 were handguns. Several firearms were AR-15 style rifles and multiple seized items were short-barreled weapons which were not registered as required by the National Firearms Act. Many of the firearms had been stolen from local Vermonters, purchased illegally at Vermont gun stores, or otherwise illegally possessed. In addition to the firearms, law enforcement also seized approximately 40,200 bags of heroin (which equates to approximately 870 grams), 141 grams of bulk heroin, 1,489 grams of cocaine base, and 78 grams of powder cocaine. Much of the heroin seized during the operation was laced with fentanyl.
The operation included three law enforcement surges around the state during which federal, state, and local resources were flooded into hard-hit Vermont communities experiencing the effects of the drug crisis and opioid overdose epidemic. The surges targeted drug and firearm trafficking in the Brattleboro area in April of 2019; the Northeast Kingdom in November of 2019; and the Rutland area in January of 2020.
“The conclusion of this large-scale, multi-year investigation is a good day for Vermonters,” said Special Agent in Charge Kelly D. Brady of the ATF Boston Field Division. “I am especially proud of the partnerships with our local, state, and federal law enforcement counterparts. Collectively, we have arrested and charged numerous individuals and groups whose actions have had a prolonged negative impact on Vermont communities. The arrests in this investigation led to the seizure of 128 firearms, over 7,500 rounds of ammunition, and large quantities of illegal narcotics; many of the firearms recovered in this case were stolen from local Vermonters. As we all know, even one firearm in the wrong hands can destroy countless lives. The fact that well over 100 firearms – either unlawfully possessed or part of the illicit market – are no longer in the wrong hands is great news for public safety throughout the region. This investigation proves that collaboration works, and it further demonstrates our commitment to combat gun violence and firearm trafficking wherever it occurs to improve the quality of life for all citizens.”
“This case reflects the continuing impact federal, state, and local law enforcement partnerships have on illegal drug trafficking organizations,” said Thomas F. Relford, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Albany Field Office. “Several coordinated operations resulted in over 100 arrests-more than 80 federal-of individuals using Interstate 91 to run large quantities of dangerous drugs through our Vermont communities. The FBI will continue to aggressively investigate criminal organizations that target our communities with their drug-related activity and ensure they are brought to justice.”
“Illegal drug distribution ravages the very foundations of our families and communities here in Vermont,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Boyle. “Let this operation be a warning to those traffickers who are coming from out of state to distribute this poison, that DEA and its local, state and federal partners will do everything in our power to bring you to justice.”
“We are extremely pleased with the outcome of this operation, stated Major Dan Trudeau, Vermont State Police. “The combined law enforcement surge efforts resulted in substantial seizures of guns and drugs, which certainly makes Vermont a safer place to live.”
“Operation Fury Road is a testament to the commitment and dedication of the law enforcement community in this region,” added U.S. Marshal Bradley LaRose. “The success of this ongoing endeavor in multiple locations simultaneously was made possible due to the focus and collaboration of our local, state and federal partners. Our joint commitment to pursue and bring to justice those who endanger our neighborhoods with drugs and violence will undoubtedly continue to be a top priority.”
This operation was part of 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.
Prosecutions arising from the operation were part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting firearm use and possession crimes; prioritizes prosecuting persons who make false statements when attempting to obtain firearms; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives concerning persons who attempt to obtain firearms illegally; coordinates responses to persons prevented from obtaining firearms for mental health reasons; and ensures the use of modern intelligence tools and technology to focus on the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities.