Police seek drug-case booty

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PARIS – The Paris Police Department is poised to receive a windfall of confiscated cash and guns from drug cases in which they played a critical role in investigating.

Once the attorney general’s office has made its final decision on the matter, the department could reap 19 guns and more than $26,000 in cash.

Maine law allows for the forfeiture of firearms if the weapons are found in proximity to illegal drugs, and for the forfeiture of money – both cash or stocks – if it can be traced to drug deals, Assistant Attorney General David Fisher said.

Besides currency and weapons, vehicles and real estate are legally forfeited every year in Maine in connection with drug cases, and then distributed by the Office of the Maine Attorney General mostly to law enforcement agencies based on a judgment of how much a police department contributed to the successful resolution of a case.

The money that could be awarded to Paris comes from two drug cases: one more local and recent, the other more distant, although the latter is attached to a far greater amount of money, $23,000.

Following a three-month investigation, an September a West Paris man was charged, among other things, with trafficking heroin and furnishing drugs. Michael W. Holden, 44, of 2 Bog Brook Loop, has pleaded not guilty to all the accusations against him.

During a search of Holden’s property, investigators seized firearms, $3,043 in cash, as well as heroin and marijuana, according to the Paris police department. Officer Zane Loper, who is a Paris police officer contracted to investigate drug cases in conjunction with MDEA, was the lead officer in this case.

Pending a guilty closure to the case, Paris police could receive all the recovered cash and 19 firearms, which would be sold. Paris police Chief David Verrier also said the money could be shared with Norway and Oxford, because Loper works as the drug investigator for all three communities.

Verrier said the money would probably be spent on updating cruiser equipment and weapons.

The second case, which involves two West Haven, Conn., men arrested on drug-related charges more than two years ago in York County, could put $23,000 in Paris police coffers. That case has already concluded in court.

Initially, Leonard Sande and Lewis Masselli, both 49, were stopped by state police on the turnpike in York County in May 2004 and charged with drug-related offenses. Police discovered $23,000 in cash in the car during this stop, along with syringes, a tourniquet, a straw used to snort powder and cocaine residue, according to Gerry Baril of the MDEA in Lewiston.

A month after the the initial arrest of Sande and Masselli, Lt. Michael Dailey of the Paris police stopped a vehicle on Route 26 for speeding. Masselli was in the car and he gave Dailey false information about his identity, according to Baril, leading to the charge of unsworn falsification.

And that stop helped the police investigating the two men make links with drug users and distributors in Oxford County.

“It widened the scope and provided information,” Baril said.

Eventually, Masselli pleaded guilty in 2006 to illegal possession of a hypodermic needle and unsworn falsification, and Sande pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a schedule W drug, a misdemeanor, according to York County District Attorney Mark Lawrence.

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