Federal Government Seizing Drug Properties in Rutland, Vermont
The United States Attorney’s Office announced today that it had filed a forfeiture lawsuit against the real property at 114, 116 and 117 Park Avenue in Rutland Vermont. The suit was brought pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(7), which provides that property which is used to commit or to facilitate the commission of felony drug offenses can be forfeited to the Government. Each property contains a house containing at least two apartments. The houses appear to have been built as single family homes but have been split up over time.
The complaint and the accompanying affidavit show that there were multiple heroin and crack cocaine dealers living in and using the apartments in the Park Avenue buildings starting at least in 2011 and 2012 and continuing into 2015. The documents also show that law enforcement searched several of the apartments in 2013. One of the properties was searched twice. The documents also show that law enforcement made six controlled buys from dealers in the apartments and have arrested several persons who had been living there. At least four former tenants are now under indictment or have been convicted already in federal court and others have been charged in state court. These include Eric Dixon, now serving 87 months in federal prison; Earnest Murray, now serving 60 months in federal prison; Andrew Harris, now serving 60 months in federal prison; and Terrance Chenault, now serving 87 months in federal prison.
The court documents show that a drug dealer paid multiple bags of heroin as a security deposit to a former property manager for 114 Park Avenue when he moved in. The documents further show that the current property manager has a lengthy criminal history and that her daughters lived in several of the apartments with known drug dealers.
The affidavit of probable cause states that the property is owned by a New York corporation whose principals are Bernard and Ruth Jeifa, whose principal place of business is in the Town of Franklin Square, on Long Island, in New York State. The documents show that Bernard Jeifa regularly collected rent from tenants and met tenants with his property manager. They also show that he paid to repair doors to an apartment after law enforcement had to knock them down to execute a search warrant but said nothing to the tenant. The court filings further show that when a non-dealing tenant complained of the drug dealing by other tenants, Jeifa instructed her to call the police or call the property manager. The documents also show that local residents sent a letter to Bernard Jeifa to inform him of the drug dealing but that the drug dealing continued.
The forfeiture proceedings against the Park Avenue properties plus the recent forfeiture action against 24 Cottage Street, as well as a series of criminal prosecutions, are part of an ongoing effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in conjunction with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to address drug activity in Rutland. During the past year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged approximately thirty individuals federally who have facilitated the drug trade in Rutland, Vermont.
The charged individuals have included out-of-state dealers responsible for bringing significant quantities of heroin and crack cocaine to Rutland; local residents who provided housing, transportation, and local distribution networks to these out-of-state dealers; and couriers who moved the drugs between other states (most frequently New York) and Vermont.
The United States Attorney’s Office’s efforts to combat drug trafficking in Rutland have been supported by the work of the Vermont State Police Drug Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Rutland Police Department. The United States Marshals Service will play a key role in the forfeiture of the Park Avenue properties. Assistant U.S. Attorney James Gelber is responsible for the property forfeitures.