, Newburyport, MA

October 4, 2013

More progress in heroin battle

Police to continue use of informants, undercover officers to catch dealers

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — SALISBURY — The recent arrest of a Salisbury man believed to be a major mover of heroin within town borders has taken one of law enforcement’s biggest targets off the streets, for the time being. But even with 50-year-old Dana Abrahams’ arrest, police concede that its campaign to rid Salisbury of heroin is far from over.

Abrahams, of High Street, was arrested by police Tuesday after officers observed him selling drugs inside a CVS Pharmacy parking lot on Beach Road. Abrahams was also wanted by Newburyport police for selling drugs in that city. Salisbury police charged Abrahams with heroin distribution and a previous warrant. Newburyport police charged him with heroin possession, heroin distribution and conspiracy to violate drug laws. He was arraigned Wednesday at Newburyport District Court and is being held on $10,000 cash bail.

Court records show that Abrahams has 143 entries in his criminal file including the sale of narcotics, kidnapping, break and entering and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

During the booking process, Salisbury police Detective Anthony King conducted a strip search of the suspect and found a white bag containing 2.7 grams of heroin inside a body cavity. Police also recovered $244 in cash and Abraham’s cellphone.

According to Salisbury police, as Abrahams was being processed, his cellphone continued beeping and ringing. One of the names that popped up repeatedly on the phone’s screen belonged to Kylie Grelle, a well-known heroin user known to live in Salisbury. In late September, Grelle, along with her boyfriend, Cameron Burke, and another man, Emmanuel Paraskoulakis of Newburyport, were arrested and charged with heroin possession by Newburyport police for allegedly shooting up in a wooded area behind Graf Rink.

The texts asked Abrahams to meet up allegedly so he could sell her more heroin. Pretending to be Abrahams, Salisbury police officer James Leavitt arranged to meet Grelle inside the Star of the Sea Church parking lot on Ferry Road. Grelle agreed, prompting police to place fake drugs in a plastic bag and assign an undercover police officer to conduct the reverse buy.

At the last minute, Grelle sent another text saying she couldn’t make it to the church parking lot and asked if they could meet at the Beach Road CVS Pharmacy parking lot. When the undercover officer met her there, explaining that Abrahams couldn’t make it, she handed the officer $30 for 0.3 grams of heroin. Shortly after the undercover officer left the scene, Leavitt approached Grelle and placed her under arrest. Grelle was charged with heroin possession and conspiracy to violate drug laws.

The 20-year-old Burke has been in and out of police stations and courthouses for several years. At one point linked to the area gang MFA, Burke, along with Grelle, was part of a months-long heroin investigation in Newburyport that recently resulted in the arrests of two Merrimac residents, Thomas Dastous and Katie Sullivan.

On at least two occasions, Grelle and Burke were seen by Newburyport officers and inspectors meeting with Dastous and Sullivan to purchase heroin. At one point, police watched as Burke allegedly purchased heroin from Dastous and Sullivan on the city’s rail trail and then drive over to a CVS Pharmacy parking lot on Pond Street. Police spotted Burke slumped over while in their car. After the user sobered up enough to leave the car, he entered the pharmacy. Dastous and Sullivan then left in the car.

Scenarios like this are becoming more prevalent in the Greater Newburyport area as heroin becomes cheaper and easier to obtain than other highly addictive narcotics, leading police to report a significant rise in its use and sales.

Law enforcement officials in each community can easily ring off a list of popular places where heroin is sold and administered. In Amesbury, fast food parking lots off Route 110 near Interstate 95 and 495 are popular. In Newburyport, the city’s rail trail, Cashman Park and behind Graf Rink are all places where police typically see drug transactions. In Salisbury, a popular meeting point is a CVS Pharmacy parking lot off Beach Road, only yards away from Town Hall.

Police say a side-effect to the easy purchase of heroin is the number of housebreaks, car breaks and burglaries committed by addicts looking to fund their habit. Earlier this week, a husband and wife living at a Salisbury motel pleaded guilty to breaking into empty vacation homes over the winter, stealing enough valuables to feed their drug habits.

In Amesbury recently, a mother walked into a Town Park bathroom only to find a heroin user slumped on the ground in the midst of a drug overdose. The victim, a 40-year-old woman, recovered after paramedics administered Narcan, also known as naloxone, to treat opiate or heroin overdoses.

Police in Amesbury, Newburyport and Salisbury have noticed a dramatic uptick in recent years in the number of addicts shooting up in public places. Be it restaurant or gas station bathrooms, inside parked cars or town parks, addicts don’t wait until they are in a private place. The urge becomes so overpowering, they’ll shoot up as soon as they have purchased their fix.

Much of the recent gains in the fight against heroin use can be traced to a federal grant that Newburyport, Amesbury and Salisbury police have been awarded the last two years: the Edward J. Byrne Memorial Justice Grant program. In March, the state’s Executive Officer of Public Safety awarded $63,000 to be split among the communities to aid their drug enforcement efforts. The year before, the communities received a total of $90,000.

“It’s a common goal to get these people off the streets and in jail,” Salisbury police Chief Thomas Fowler said, referring not only to grant recipients but other neighboring communities.

Newburyport City Marshal Thomas Howard echoed Fowler’s statement, saying his department works very closely with his neighbors sharing resources and information whenever possible.

Despite all the recent gains, Fowler and Howard said there is still plenty of work to be done. Detectives will continue to work with criminal informants to arrange drug buys and undercover officers will be interacting directly with dealers hoping to garner enough evidence to obtain arrest warrants. Howard said part of his goal isn’t merely to disrupt drug sales but to find out more about where the drugs are coming from. When asked, Howard said he couldn’t comment on what his department has learned.

Over in Salisbury, Fowler said his detectives are still pursuing leads based on Abrahams’ arrest and are hoping it leads to more arrests in the upcoming months.

“We will continue to vigorously investigate and arrest anyone selling heroin or any illegal drugs,” Fowler said.