Colchester woman accused of running drug house

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Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice say Michelle West made her residence at 98 Shady Ln. in Colchester available to distribute fentanyl and cocaine base. (Photo by Michaela Halnon)

The U.S. Department of Justice says a Colchester woman was one of three Vermonters arrested for making their homes available for drug activity.

A press release from the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont said Michelle West, 41, of Colchester was charged with conspiring with Boston residents Rashaad Phillips and Saquan Moore to distribute fentanyl and cocaine base and for making her residence at 98 Shady Ln. in Colchester “available for drug activity.”

Court documents say West, Phillips and Moore “knowingly and willfully conspired” to distribute the controlled substances between September 2016 and Jan. 24, 2017 in Vermont and beyond.

West is charged with “unlawfully and knowingly” managing and controlling her Shady Ln. home as an occupant and making the house available for unlawful distribution as recently as last month. West was arrested May 2.

In a motion for detention, acting U.S. Attorney Eugenia A. P. Cowles said West has a lengthy criminal record, including approximately 20 misdemeanor convictions and a felony conviction.

Cowles also said West has an open warrant for failure to appear in a pending criminal case and Chittenden County District Court and was in possession of “approximately a bundle of heroin” at the time of her arrest. West didn’t oppose the motion for detention, filings show.

Documents also detail several specific dates on which Phillips and Moore allegedly distributed the drugs. One charge says the duo distributed 28 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing “a detectable amount of cocaine base” on January 24.

Separately, 41-year-old Gayle Morenus of South Burlington and 48-year-old Michael Bessette of Burlington were charged for making their respective homes available for drug activity.

West, Morenus and Bessette each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

“These facilitators allow drug dealers to exploit the safe harbor of their homes to operate and peddle their poison within our communities,” Cowles said in the press release. “In doing so, they commit crimes worthy of federal prosecution.”

The release said the charges resulted from long-term investigations conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Burlington police, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Vermont State Police Drug Task Force.