Third defendant added in Hardwick gun theft
By Eric Blaisdell
STAFF WRITER | May 02,2014
BARRE — A third Richford resident is facing a federal charge in connection with the theft of 32 guns from Riteway Sports in Hardwick last month.
Jaime Hoben, 29, of Richford, is accused of receiving a stolen firearm, a felony. If convicted, she faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Two others, Larry Garrow, 26, and Albert Torres-Morales, 29, already had been reported as being charged in the case. Garrow is facing a felony charge of stealing guns from a federally licensed firearms dealer. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. Torres-Morales is accused of distribution of cocaine and possession with intent to distribute, both felonies. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.
All three are scheduled to appear in the federal court in Burlington on May 7 to answer the charges.
Garrow and Torres-Morales are both being held without bail at Northwest State Correctional Facility in Swanton. Hoben has been released on conditions.
Hardwick Police Chief Aaron Cochran has said that 32 handguns, estimated at around $13,000 in value, were taken April 19 from Riteway Sports. He said the thieves cut the electricity to the building before smashing the glass front door to get inside.
According to an affidavit from Wesley Martin, a task force agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, law enforcement received an anonymous tip April 21 about the gun theft. The tipster told law enforcement he or she had spoken with Hoben that day in Burlington about the robbery. The tipster said Hoben admitted driving Garrow to the store to rob it. Hoben showed the tipster a handgun that Hoben claimed was taken from the store and still had a price tag on it, according to the affidavit.
When Martin spoke with Hoben, he said, she admitted driving Garrow near the store. Hoben told the agent that Garrow then walked toward the store carrying a bag. Soon after Garrow walked away, Hoben told Martin, she saw a flash and then smoke coming from the building.
Martin said he had seen charring above the building’s electrical meter where the electric line had been cut.
Hoben told the agent that Garrow returned to the car and placed the bag in the back. Hoben and Garrow then drove to Richford, according to the affidavit. Hoben said that during the drive, she stopped the car so Garrow could relieve himself, and when she looked in the bag she saw it was full of guns. Martin said Hoben admitted taking one of the guns and sticking it under the driver’s seat.
Martin said Hoben then drove Garrow to Torres-Morales’ home and Garrow took the bag of guns inside and returned without it. Martin said Garrow and Hoben then drove away.
Law enforcement said Garrow’s parents acknowledged seeing a bag with guns inside their house April 20, but Garrow claimed the guns were bought out of state and not stolen. The parents said Garrow used narcotics and needed help.
After learning the guns were stolen, the parents turned the bag over to law enforcement. Martin said there were 11 guns inside — nine handguns and two pellet guns. The serial numbers on the guns matched the ones stolen from the store in Hardwick.
According to the U.S. attorney’s office, information later revealed that Garrow kept the 11 guns and gave the remaining weapons to a person known as Junior in exchange for money and drugs. Court records didn’t specify what the guns were traded for.
The remaining guns have not been located, and law enforcement is seeking any information about where they are. Anyone with information about these crimes should call their local police department or the Crimestoppers Tip Line at 864-6666 or toll-free at (800) 427-8477.
According to an affidavit by Benjamin Cohen, another agent with the ATF, the Vermont Drug Task Force began investigating a man called Junior, who later turned out to be Torres-Morales, in December on a suspicion he was distributing cocaine. Cohen said the investigation involved a paid informant. The informant told law enforcement Torres-Morales was selling cocaine in the Richford area for $50 for half a gram and $100 for a gram.
On Jan. 2, the task force conducted a controlled buy of cocaine using the informant. The informant purchased a gram of cocaine for $100 from Torres-Morales, according to the affidavit. The informant also told law enforcement that Torres-Morales had a handgun in his hand when he answered the door and kept the gun on him throughout the transaction. Cohen said the informant participated in four more controlled purchases of cocaine between Jan. 14 and Feb. 12.
During the investigation, Cohen said, the informant was told by Torres-Morales that he could sell other drugs such as heroin and crack. From March 11 until April 17, Cohen said, the informant participated in five controlled buys of heroin from Torres-Morales.
The task force set up another controlled buy from Torres-Morales on April 22, where Cohen said the informant was looking to buy 10 bundles of heroin for $1,350. Cohen said Torres-Morales agreed to meet the informant in St. Albans but was pulled over by Vermont State Police and found to have 13 bags of heroin on him and $1,300 in cash.