News and Press Releases

Armed Cocaine Dealer is Sentenced to Twelve Months and One Day in Prison

April 24, 2012

Burlington, VT – The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont stated that on April 23, 2012, Zachary Roberts, 29, was sentenced to serve 12 months and one day in federal prison after he pled guilty to possessing with intent to distribute cocaine. U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha, sitting in Brattleboro, also sentenced Roberts to three years of supervised release and a $1,000 fine. Roberts lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

According to court records, in February of 2010, Roberts sold cocaine to a confidential informant working with the Burlington Police Department. On March 28, 2010, law enforcement officers stopped Roberts on Interstate 89 as he and two other men were returning from a trip to Boston. Officers discovered that Roberts was armed with a large knife. After obtaining a search warrant for Roberts' vehicle officers found nearly half a kilogram of cocaine hidden in the engine block.

Subsequent investigation revealed that Roberts had made a number of trips to Boston where he obtained cocaine, which he would bring back to Chittenden County and re-sell to customers. In all, the district court found Roberts was responsible for distributing between half a kilogram and two kilograms of powder cocaine. The investigation further revealed that Roberts used two women to purchase handguns on his behalf at Vermont gun stores. Evidence showed that Roberts provided at least one of these guns to his cocaine sources in Boston. One of the handguns Roberts obtained was an FN Herstal 5.7mm handgun. This handgun has a large capacity magazine which accommodates 23 rounds of ammunition. Moreover, the handgun is designed to fire large, high-velocity, ammunition capable of piercing body armor. Neither the FN Herstal nor the second handgun have been recovered by law enforcement.

Roberts faced a maximum prison term of 20 years on the cocaine charge. Under the federal Sentencing Guidelines, which accounted for Roberts' possession of firearms, the recommended term of imprisonment was 70-87 months. Citing the quantity and value of the cocaine Roberts distributed, and the dangerousness inherent in his trafficking of handguns, the government urged Judge Murtha to impose a 70-month term of imprisonment.

The government also relied on Roberts' criminal record, which includes a 2001 misdemeanor convictions for gross negligent operation of a motor vehicle, attempting to elude law enforcement, leaving the scene of an accident, and operating a motor vehicle without the owner's consent. According to records pertaining to these convictions, in 2000, Roberts stole a car and led law enforcement officers on a high speed chase through a residential section of Burlington. Roberts crashed head-on into a car stopped at a traffic light and then fled the scene on foot before being captured. Records indicate that Roberts served four months of incarceration for these crimes.

Judge Murtha reduced Roberts' sentence by approximately 58 months below the 70-month sentence requested by the government and recommended by the Sentencing Guidelines, and ordered him to serve twelve months and one day. In explaining his decision, Judge Murtha stated that the sentence imposed provided adequate deterrence and promoted a respect for the law. Judge Murtha also cited Roberts' efforts to overcome his alcohol and marijuana problems. For its part, the government argued that Roberts' alcohol and marijuana problems were not related to his cocaine and firearms trafficking. The government also noted that Roberts had failed to refrain from using marijuana while awaiting sentencing. According to court records, Roberts violated his conditions of supervised release in both August and December of 2011 by using marijuana.

United States Attorney Tristram J. Coffin commended the Burlington Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for their work on this investigation.

The prosecutor is Assistant United States Attorney Timothy C. Doherty, Jr. Roberts is represented by Burlington defense attorney Mark Kaplan.

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