Skip to main content
Press Release

Ten Individuals Charged in Northeast Kingdom Drug Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Vermont

The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont stated that a federal grand jury returned an indictment yesterday charging ten individuals with conspiring to distribute fentanyl and cocaine base between February 2022 and August 5, 2022. The indictment includes nine additional counts alleging distributions or intended distributions of fentanyl by specific individuals among the defendants. The lead defendant, Juan Carlos Ortiz (also known as “JC,” age 28, of Springfield, Massachusetts), is already in federal custody following his arrest on a prior federal drug case on August 5, 2022. The other defendants—Clair Deslandes (64, Island Pond), Jeremy Allin (also known as “OG,” 51, Lunenburg), Hayley McDonald (25, Derby), Margaret Radford (53, Newport Center), Mary Rhodes (45, North Troy), Loretta Poquette (47, Norton), Ronald Braun (43, Lowell), Jessica Ward (44, Lowell), and Angela Birk (41, Newport)—will appear before the United States District Court for arraignment following their arrests in the case.

The United States Attorney emphasizes that the charges in the indictment are accusations only and that each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted of the charged offenses, the defendants would each face a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment and up to a $1 million fine. Any actual sentence for each defendant, however, would be determined by the Court with guidance from the advisory Federal Sentencing Guidelines and the United States Code. 

The charges in the indictment follow an investigation conducted by multiple state and federal agencies that was led by the Northern Vermont Drug Task Force (NVDTF) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). NVDTF and ATF were assisted in this investigation by the detectives and troopers from the Vermont State Police; members of the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department, the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, the Newport Police Department, and the Orleans Police Department; troopers from the Massachusetts State Police; agents and task force officers with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations; and aviators with the Air & Marine Operations component of United States Customs & Border Protection.  United States Attorney Nikolas P. Kerest commended the collaboration of federal and state law enforcement agencies during the investigation. 

The United States is represented in this matter by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Lasher. Juan Carlos Ortiz is represented by Richard Bothfeld, Esq.  Attorney information for the other defendants is not yet available.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.  For more information about Project Safe Neighborhoods, please visit

Updated November 16, 2022

Drug Trafficking