by Doug McClure
BURLINGTON – According to an affidavit from Special Agent Colin Simons, the Hutchins Farm Road residence in Stannard of brothers Eric and Gage Colson was the subject of a joint investigation by the Vermont Drug Task Force (VTDF) and the FBI that resulted in a September 10 raid by law enforcement. According to the warrant, the agencies had collected enough evidence that “probable cause exists for evidence of violations of 21 U.S.C. § 841 (possession with intent to distribute heroin/fentanyl), and 21 U.S.C. § 846 (conspiracy to distribute heroin/fentanyl)” for the search of the residence, and “probable cause to believe that Eric and Gage Colson have violated 21 U.S.C. § 846.” As of Tuesday morning, Gage Colson was awaiting his detention hearing. Eric Colson was released pending trial to a treatment center with conditions of release, including random drug testing.
The government wanted Eric Colson detained pending trial. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathanael Burris noted “the nature circumstances of the defendant’s offense involve a very large quantity of controlled substances, including fentanyl. This could subject the defendant to a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence.” The government further said that approximately 29 grams of fentanyl was located during the execution of the search warrant, and law enforcement subsequently located a stash house where “approximately 10” firearms and materials for the manufacture of fentanyl was uncovered. Burris pointed out that the firearms found “including an AR-style rifle … could subject him to an additional five year consecutive mandatory minimum sentence.” Pressed for more details, Burris said the firearms “varied from the previously mentioned AR-style rifle to tactical shotguns to hunting weapons to a number of handguns.”
Burris said that “although he is just 23, he managed a sophisticated distribution operation which employed evasive tactics to avoid detection by law enforcement.” He added that “the government expects to additionally present evidence related to a motor vehicle stop in early August of this year in Massachusetts … [that] resulted in the seizure of more than a kilo of cocaine and 21,000 bags of suspected fentanyl.” Burris said “the government acknowledges that the defendant is just 23 and is a lifelong Vermonter. He’s nonetheless unemployed. He has a history of drug use and abuse, and during the early stages of his offense, he was actually on probation” for burglary. He said the government considered a flight risk.
The proposed plan of sending Eric Colson to inpatient treatment was not seen as a safe course of action by Burris.
“The defendant would still have access to both drugs and substantial sums of money… the proposed plan… would involve his living with individuals the government considers to be potential uncharged co-conspirators.” He added that law enforcement “had received information that within the past few days, individuals have left that same residence with controlled substances, and thus we believe that controlled substances may in fact still be in the residence.”
Citing what the government believed was the strength of the evidence, Burris said “we suggest there are no conditions of release that can be imposed to mitigate the danger to the community, and [he] should be detained pending trial.”
U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Kevin J. Doyle was not swayed to alter the proposed plan of a treatment center and returning Eric Colson home until trial, but did set conditions. He told Eric Colson, “You appear to have the support of your parents at home and I strongly advise you to take full advantage of this opportunity being given to go to Valley Vista [treatment center]. Not everyone receives this opportunity.”
Once released from Valley Vista, Eric Colson will go home until trial. He will be subject to GPS tracking. The government acknowledged “the various electronics involved are very contingent upon if there’s a landline or good cell signal” in his Stannard home.
According to the affidavit, in August 2020, Special Agent Simons separately interviewed two individuals who “each stated they had worked together to steal approximately $75,000.00 worth of heroin and cocaine base from Eric Colson at the subject premises.” The two said they were “frequent customers” and “would purchase large quantities of prepackaged heroin and cocaine base from him several times a week.” One source said Eric Colson “sells $10,000-$20,000 of controlled substances per day,” while the other put that amount as “as much as $125,000 of controlled substances every few days.” One explained that they had previously counted money for Eric Colson.
The individuals added that Eric Colson put food coloring in the cocaine base “as a means of identifying the product as his.” One of the two described the two as using their own drugs. According to the two individuals, Eric Colson “hid controlled substances in the woods inside a water cooler” and “at night Eric Colson would put his drug supply into a 5-gallon water cooler with a screw-on top, which was painted in a ‘camouflage-type paint’… Eric Colson took these measures because Eric Colson believed that if he was going to ‘get busted’ it would be in the early morning hours when the water cooler was still hidden in the woods.”
One individual said Gage Colson “had his own customer base consisting of the people Eric Colson ‘didn’t want to deal with,'” supplied by Eric Colson. The brothers’ parents reside in the same house, with all drug activity indoors taking place in an apartment above the garage.
A second cooperating individual in December 2020 corroborated the previous accounts, that they had purchased from the brothers, and said the two sell “‘a lot of drugs'” and had “a lot of money.” That person also corroborated Eric Colson coloring his cocaine base as his “signature” and said he was “very careful with his drugs and who he deals with.”
In August, a confidential informant (CI) working with VTDF Detective Chris Quesnel did a controlled buy. That individual told police that they had previously purchased from the brothers “numerous times” and that the Colsons kept “business hours” of 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. to buy drugs from, so no contact prior would be necessary. Under “constant law enforcement surveillance,” the individual made the buy from Gage Colson. VTDF field-tested the drugs which “yielded a positive result for the presence of fentanyl.”
The CI described where the drugs were hidden in the building and told law enforcement that Eric Colson owned two “AR-15-style rifles,” which footage from a hidden camera corroborated. The CI further told police that “given the volume of customers” and that during every visit to the premises, “the Colsons always had enough drugs to supply these customers” and, as had the earlier two individuals, “money and drugs are buried in the ground on the property.”
Special Agent Simons’ affidavit describes a new “road or driveway” on the property that was not there during prior surveillance, as well as a trailer which was “similar looking” to one previously seen at the Colson’s residence.
Special Agent Simons wrote, “Based on my training, experience, and familiarity with this investigation (including the apparent movement of the trailer, the recency of the new driveway, and the information from CI regarding the COLSONs not allowing persons down the new driveway), I believe it is likely the COLSONs have placed the trailer at the end of the new driveway in order to conceal and secure their proceeds, drug inventory, and other items they wish to hide and protect.”