A Portland man who stashed drugs in a safe that was hidden in the woods pleaded guilty Tuesday to selling counterfeit drugs and illegally possessing a firearm.

Colin Harle, 23, of Portland is facing up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the counterfeit drug charges and between five years and life in prison, as well as a $250,000 fine, on the firearm possession charge, U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank said in a news release.

The Food and Drug Administration Forensic Chemistry Center confirmed the presence of alprazolam in the pills Harle sold and that the pills were counterfeit, Halsey said. Alprazolam is commonly sold under the Xanax brand name.

Law enforcement officers arrested Harle in South Portland on Aug. 27, 2018, following his attempt to sell counterfeit drugs, court records show. After his arrest, officers discovered that Harle kept a safe in a wooded area  in Westbrook.

Officers said the safe contained about 20,000 counterfeit pills marked Xanax 2; nearly $5,500 in cash, and a 9 mm pistol with two fully loaded magazines. Prosecutors said that Harle used the firearm to protect himself, his narcotics and his proceeds earned from drug trafficking.

“American consumers rely on FDA oversight to ensure the safety, efficacy, and authenticity of the prescription medications. Illegally dispensing counterfeit prescription drugs places consumers’ health at risk,” Jeffrey Ebersole, Special Agent in Charge of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations’ New York field office, said in a statement. “We are committed to pursuing and bringing to justice those who jeopardize the public health by distributing these potentially dangerous products.”

“Traffickers who keep loaded guns with their illegal drugs should expect to be caught and prosecuted,” Frank added.

The case was investigated by the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, the Westbrook Police Department, and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.


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