Recovery center employee pleads guilty to fentanyl distribution 

  • Jeff Hatch

Monitor staff
Published: 7/23/2019 3:51:29 PM

A celebrated member of a New Hampshire drug recovery center has pleaded guilty to transporting fentanyl across state lines, court documents revealed this week. 

Jeffrey Hatch, listed by his resume as the Chief Business Development Officer for Granite Recovery Centers, pleaded guilty on Friday to using a phone to facilitate the distribution of 1,500 grams of fentanyl, according to a plea agreement registered in the U.S. District Court in Concord. 

In July 2017, Hatch used a phone to coordinate a 1,500-gram shipment from Lawrence, Mass. to his home. He was part of a network of dealers and users captured in a sting operation in Manchester, the documents say.

Hatch is no longer an employee of GRC, which operates 12 recovery centers around the state. 

But his presence there set off a minor political flap earlier this month, after Vice President Mike Pence canceled a July 2 appearance at Granite Recovery Center headquarters. At the time, neither Pence nor the White House explained the cancellation.

But according to reports in Politico and the New York Times, Pence canceled the trip after learning that Hatch — who was set to be on stage at the event— was facing the distribution charge.

In a statement, Granite Recovery Centers CEO Eric Spofford said Tuesday that he and other staff members were unaware of Hatch’s actions, and that Hatch “was terminated immediately upon learning of this situation yesterday.”

“I am shocked, disappointed, and heartbroken,” Spofford said. 

For Hatch, it’s a stunning fall within a career marked by resurrection. A former NFL offensive lineman for the New York Giants, Hatch had a brief but dazzling run cut short by a back injury that derailed his momentum. Recovery led him to pain medicine, which set off an addiction that would persist for years.

“People say it’s a slippery slope; not for me,” Hatch said in an interview for Speakers for Change, a website that once promoted him as an inspirational speaker. “For me it was a cliff, and I jumped off.” 

A biography of Hatch featuring that interview has since been deleted by Speakers for Change. 

Hatch was able to overcome his addiction, and the battle would lead him to a life in recovery – first in Derry and eventually in Salem, for Granite State Recovery.

But he never left his experience behind. He shared it around the country, making speaking appearances in schools and community centers everywhere from Hartford, Conn. to Jackson, Miss, as recently as 2016.

Court records, however, paint a darker portrait. In 2017, in the early days of a proliferation of fentanyl in the Granite State, federal, state and local law enforcement groups were circling a distribution between Lawrence, Mass., and New Hampshire, according to Hatch’s plea agreement. They identified the main person distributing the drugs and several of that distributor’s couriers, and they established the pattern: large flows of cash into Lawrence; large shipments of fentanyl back north.

Eventually, through the help of an undercover officer in Manchester, police were able to arrest the main distributor, execute a search warrant, and pick up at least one of that distributor’s couriers, according to the plea agreement. That courier was Jeff Hatch. 

Hatch had been coordinating and carrying out the trips. On the morning of July 25, Hatch arranged a pick up of 1,500 grams of fentanyl from his distributor and brought the drugs back to his New Hampshire house. Later that day, police arrested the distributor in Manchester, and eventually Hatch as well.

Hatch faces a maximum four-year prison sentence, and a potential fine of up to $250,000. 

On Tuesday, Spofford, Hatch’s former boss, stressed that the arrest does not reflect on the work on his organization.

“Granite Recovery Centers has over 200 of the most dedicated passionate people that go above and beyond to fight in the mission against addiction every single day,” Spofford said. “The actions of one do not discredit the amazing work they all do.

“Addiction is insidious,” Spofford continued. “This illness (affects) people from all walks of life. From the inner city poor to CEOs, lawyers and doctors. This situation highlights why those of us on the front lines need to remain vigilant and must battle every day against addiction and the opioid epidemic.”

 

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, at (603) 369-3307, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)




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