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Local man charged with drug dealing

December 26, 2009
BROOKFIELD — An alleged cocaine dealer has been arrested by Wakefield Police following an undercover investigation by the Carroll County Drug Task Force.

On Dec. 15, law enforcement officers from Wakefield, Wolfeboro, and Carroll County Sheriff's Office arrested Ross A. Hardman, 45, of Brookfield, and charged him with three felony counts of sale of a narcotic drug. The arrest was made without incident at Hardman's home at 340 Wentworth Road. A day later, Hardman was arraigned in Southern Carroll County District Court and freed on $10,000 cash or surety bail. He will be on the county's pretrial release program.

The Carroll County Drug Task Force conducted an extensive investigation prior to the arrest, which included the use of surveillance and undercover agents.

"We're not going to idly sit by while punks sell drugs," said Carroll County Sheriff Chris Conley whose department leads the drug task force.

In a written statement, Conley makes it clear he has a very low opinion of drug dealers in general.

"The pusher doesn't pay a tax, interest rate, or contribute one iota to society and after they burn themselves out they are the first in line for any and all public assistance; they ride the backs of decent people," he wrote.

Further, he explains that drug dealers often share the names of their customers as a marketing tool and that can shatter peoples' reputations.

The task force's commander, Lt. Michael Santuccio, of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, said the task force is a two-year old organization with about 25 members from every law enforcement agency in the county. Every member of the task force is sworn in through the sheriff's office giving him or her statewide jurisdiction to pursue drug investigations.

The task force allows law enforcement agencies to pool resources. It also helps officers follow drug crimes wherever they lead throughout the state. In addition, drug dealers are often familiar with the police officers in their own town, but they won't recognize task force officers because they are from other places. Although the task force is sworn in under the authority of the sheriff's office, the chiefs of police in Carroll County run and govern it.

"It fulfills the purpose of the drug task force," said Santuccio of Hardman's arrest. "That's why we got together. Agencies sometimes can't make it happen on their own because of manpower or equipment."

According to the charges, on three separate occasions Hardman sold unspecified quantities of cocaine for $100 a pop to a confidential informant. The alleged sales occurred at his home on Oct. 16, Nov. 2, and Nov. 20 between 4:30 and 5 p.m. Hardman will be prosecuted at the state level because there weren't enough drugs involved to warrant a federal case, officers said.

"It was enough to make it worthwhile," said Wakefield Police Lt. Mark O'Brien.

Wakefield Police is the law enforcement agency charging Hardman because Wakefield Police cover Brookfield. O'Brien said Hardman did not have a significant criminal history prior to this arrest.

Court records indicate Hardman did have a prior conviction for theft.

Wolfeboro Police are also pleased with the arrest because Hardman has been a "person of interest" in connection to drug dealing in the county for many years, according to Wolfeboro Police Chief Stuart Chase.

Hardman lived at his home in Brookfield for two years and lived in Wolfeboro for six years prior to that, according to court records.

"The importance of the task force approach to this type of criminal conduct cannot be overemphasized," wrote Chase. "The pooling of resources, equipment, intelligence and manpower was directly attributable to the success of this investigation."

Wolfeboro Police Lt. Dean Rondeau said he considers the arrest a major victory for the task force.

"This is certainly going to have an impact on the amount of drugs coming into this area without a doubt," said Rondeau.

Arresting an alleged drug dealer can take a long time because police need to acquire enough evidence to get a conviction in court, Rondeau. Sometimes residents who complain about an alleged drug dealer get frustrated because they assume police are turning a blind-eye to drug crime, he said.

But Rondeau said police must get a warrant from a judge before an arrest can be made or a search warrant can be executed.

Before issuing a warrant, a judge must decide police have "probable cause" before they can move forward. The probable cause standard means a reasonable person would conclude the suspect has committed a crime, is committing a crime, or is about to commit a crime, said Rondeau. Police in Wolfeboro prefer to exceed that standard because they want to ensure an ironclad case in court.

Conley said he's also heard complaints from residents who don't understand why police don't act right away.

"Contrary to some people's belief, the police frequently know who the pushers and their customers are; but there are Constitutional rights that we protect in every case," he wrote.

Also assisting in the investigation were Ossipee Police and Moultonborough Police, said O'Brien.

Attempts to reach Hardman by phone were unsuccessful. He is due to appear in Southern Carroll County District Court again on Jan. 6 for a probable cause hearing.

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