Accused drug dealer pleads not guilty

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Darrick Holmes, owner of Colchester's Almighty Peaks Painting company, pleaded not guilty in federal court last week. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

Darrick Holmes, owner of Colchester’s Almighty Peaks Painting company, pleaded not guilty in federal court last week. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

Darrick Holmes, owner of Colchester’s Almighty Peaks Painting, pleaded not guilty in federal court last Friday to multiple counts of conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine.

The eight-count indictment spans over a two-year period, from 2015 to March 2017.

Court documents say Holmes used his West Lakeshore Dr. business and its employees to distribute heroin. His two co-defendants, Joshua Jarvis and Justin James Finnegan, were also employees.

On March 18, the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested two suspected New York drug dealers outside Holmes’ business, Colchester police Lt. Doug Allen confirmed. Holmes was arrested days earlier.

With the help of a “cooperating defendant,” Shawn Alonso and Tamara Moody were found with over a kilogram of heroin, court documents show. The defendant helped identify the dealers, whom he said routinely supplied him with heroin and cocaine multiple times per month.

The dealers routinely met the defendant at his commercial business to exchange the drugs, court documents say. Holmes’ name is not explicitly mentioned in affidavits for Alonso and Moody’s arrest.

Mark Kaplan, Holmes’ attorney, presented an interim solution to the 48-year-old’s detention, saying he should attend a rehab facility before returning to court.

Judge John M. Conroy, however, determined Holmes is a threat to the community and ordered him detained.

“Heroin is ripping apart the fabric of the state,” Conroy said.

Kaplan claimed Holmes, a Colchester resident, is not addicted to drugs, but used regularly prior to his arrest. When Conroy asked Kaplan to clarify, he said Holmes was possibly using heroin once a day, but “is not an addict.”

Instead, Kaplan said his client’s longtime substance problem stems from alcohol.

The lawyer also noted Holmes’ strong familial ties to Chittenden County. A lifelong Vermonter, Holmes’ friends and family are local and could support him if released on conditions until trial, Kaplan said, but Conroy wasn’t swayed.

Holmes has two other federal arrests to date. He served 10 years in federal prison for a 1992 cocaine related offense, and in 2003, authorities found 400 grams of cocaine in his basement ceiling.

Distributing more than 100 grams of heroin typically carries a five-year minimum sentence, but this increases to 10 years due to Holmes’ priors, Conroy said.

The judge said he was troubled by Holmes’ supervisory role at Almighty Peaks. An informant told DEA special agent Brandon Hope that Holmes used to deal strictly in cocaine. He made the switch to heroin, however, because many of his employees used, and “it was an easy way to pay them,” the affidavit says.

Holmes distributed the controlled substances while traveling in an Almighty Peaks van, an affidavit says. Officials also say Holmes used the telephone number for Almighty Peaks to conduct drug business.

Law enforcement officers observed him conduct drug transactions at a rental property on Oak Hill Road in Williston. Holmes owned the multi-unit building, which he rented to his employees and other tenants. Now, it may be considered a forfeitable asset to the government.

Moody and Alonso were arrested behind the business, where many of the exchanges occurred, court documents show. When detectives pulled Alonso from the car, a large 1.049-kilogram package fell from his pants. It field-tested positive for heroin soon after.

Alonso also had a smaller, 170-gram package, but authorities didn’t field-test it since it was securely wrapped, the affidavit shows.

Sen. Dick Mazza (D-Grand Isle) owns the plaza that houses Almighty Peaks, which is across from his general store. He could not be reached for comment before press time Tuesday but has told other media he’d heard rumors of Holmes’ criminal activity.

Colchester police said any intel they received about Holmes was forwarded to the DEA. Officers provided a support role in arresting Holmes, Alonso and Moody, Allen said.

Pretrial motions in the case are due June 26.