RUMFORD — A couple was arrested Thursday morning at their home at 58 Kerr St. after police found over 500 doses of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, there, Police Chief Tony Milligan said.

Forty-three grams of the drug, which is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, were seized from the house occupied by Matthew Bellegarde, 38, and his live-in companion Shannon Long, 28, the chief said.

Each was charged with aggravated trafficking in fentanyl and taken to the Oxford County Jail in Paris.

Matthew Bellegarde and Shannon Long Rumford Police Department photo

Milligan said for months police and drug investigators had been receiving information from a number of sources, including community members, of an inordinate amount of traffic coming in and out of 58 Kerr St. Police also learned Bellegarde and Long had been selling fentanyl out of the home, he said.

“My officers spent a considerable amount of time conducting surveillance to see firsthand the incredible amount of traffic going to the Bellegarde-Long residence,” Milligan said. “It looked as ridiculous as a drive-thru fast-food establishment at times!

“The information we had received from concerned community members, combined with our surveillance, was instrumental in us being able to disrupt, and hopefully dismantle this particular drug trafficking operation.”

Rumford police, assisted by Maine State Police, Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Border Patrol agents executed a search warrant at the house. They found about 43 grams of suspected fentanyl, along with digital drug scales, packaging materials and $3,640 in suspected drug proceeds.

The 43 grams are more than seven times the threshold for a Class A crime under Maine law. A conviction for trafficking fentanyl is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Milligan said the amount of fentanyl represents over 500 individual doses with an estimated street value of over $15,000.

Another factor in the case, Milligan said, is the home is about 850 feet from the Pennacook Learning Center at 676 Forest Ave. Under Maine law, those convicted of trafficking drugs within 1,000 feet of any school or designated safe zone face stiffer penalties.

“It takes a collaborative effort between citizens and the police to successfully combat drug trafficking in our community,” Milligan said. “We cannot do this alone. Fentanyl costs us too many lives to remain silent. Because of its highly addictive qualities, low cost, and high profitability, it is a crime that many commit, despite the risks,” he said.

Anyone with information about the sale and distribution of fentanyl is asked to contact Rumford police at 364-4551 or leave a tip online at www.rumfordpd.com. Anyone who knows of someone or who is struggling with substance abuse can contact Oxford County Mental Health at 364-3549.

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