Document, U.S. official detail investigation into Manchester drug ring
In this handout photo released by the New Hampshire U.S. Attorney's office, Monday, June 30, 2014 in Concord, N.H. money, guns, ammunition and marijuana seized is seen on display. The U.S. Attorney's office said recent drug arrests may have ties to a Canadian smuggling ring. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Donald Feith, from the U.S. Attorney's office talks about recent drug arrests that may have ties to a Canadian smuggling ring during a news conference Monday, June 30, 2014 in Concord, N.H.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Five years ago, law enforcement agents in Vermont descended on two houses near the Canadian border that they suspected were being used by a Canadian drug smuggling outfit to move millions of dollars worth of marijuana into the state. Federal authorities had been trailing the group for months, and they believed it was using similar points of entry into New York and New Hampshire.
The raid would prove a watershed moment in the probe, leading to numerous arrests through 2010, according to a 96-page police affidavit unsealed last week in U.S. District Court in Concord.
But one prominent suspect was never apprehended: Alkis Nakos of Manchester.
Until last week.
Yesterday, the office of U.S. Attorney John Kacavas formally announced the arrests of Nakos and nine other New Hampshire men, all of whom they claim were foot soldiers for the Canadian outfit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Feith said four suspects, including William Swanson, an employee at Capital City Automotive in Concord, remain at large.
During the arrests, authorities recovered 30 pounds of marijuana, 2 pounds of MDMA – also known as Molly or ecstasy – $85,000 in cash and several guns, including a machine gun equipped with a silencer, Feith said. He estimated that the marijuana alone was worth between $100,000 and $150,000.
Feith said the Manchester ring’s dealings have likely exceeded $1 million since 2012, when authorities began re-investigating Nakos.
“Cases such as this show the seriousness of those individuals who engage in the business side of” the drug trade, Feith said. “These aren’t users feeding a habit. They were in business.”
Authorities said they first learned of Nakos’s involvement during the 2009 investigation, titled Operation Brown Shirt. Nakos was incarcerated with a member of the Canadian group in the Concord state prison in 2006, and an informant arrested during the June raid identified him as the outfit’s principal distributor in New Hampshire, according to the affidavit.
That informant said the group was trafficking as much as $5 million worth of marijuana into New Hampshire annually, and that some of the proceeds were then being moved out of state and used to purchase cocaine, the affidavit said.
By 2012, investigators believed Nakos was still in the game, and they believed he was working closely with a second man, Kosmas Koustas, now 35, of Hooksett. Nakos would allegedly supply Koustas with the marijuana, and Koustas would distribute it to street peddlers, according to the affidavit.
Local, state and federal authorities tracked the alleged ring using wiretaps, surveillance, undercover operations and controlled buys, Feith said.
In one recorded phone conversation from December, Koustas can be heard talking to one of his alleged salesmen, Charles Fowle, also of Hooksett, from the Market Basket in Manchester.
“I like that one,” Fowle said, according to the affidavit. “I went there one day, dude, it is so big. It is almost too f------ big. They’ve got so much f------ s--- in that place, huh?”
“This is, this is the welfare place,” Koustas said. “You find, if you, if you want to find customers, you come here (laughs).”
“Yeah, maybe I’ll swing down there,” Fowle replied. “I could use a few.”
Koustas was arrested separately March 30 after fleeing the scene of a traffic stop near Methuen, Mass. Authorities had followed him there and believed he had purchased cocaine from a distributor named Juan Rodriguez Sanchez, the affidavit said.
During the chase, Koustas reportedly called an associate and told him to go to his home in Hooksett and remove multiple boxes, the “moll” and another substance, and the “gats,” which a state investigator said he believed meant firearms. According to the affidavit, the associate, James Johnson, called back a short time later and said by the time he arrived officers had already surrounded the residence.
The police searched the home that night and recovered, among other items, 2 pounds of MDMA, a digital scale, a money counter, two guns and 12 cell phones.