Knock and talk leads to drug arrest in Rutland
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | March 09,2013
Federal investigators said a Rutland resident’s casual mention that he had “rock” at his Church Street apartment led to Friday’s arrest of a New York man who agents said distributed crack cocaine in Rutland and Burlington for the last two years.
FBI agents said they arrested Von Simmonds, 30, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who was found hiding in a bedroom closet at 29 Church St.
Simmonds was taken to federal court in Burlington where he pleaded innocent Friday to a charge of conspiracy to distribute a cocaine-based drug.
He was jailed pending the results of a hearing Monday to consider a request from federal prosecutors to hold him until trial.
If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in jail.
Simmonds didn’t start the day as a target of drug investigators. In fact, Simmonds, also known as “Red,” was identified only after police found him in the Church Street apartment.
Rutland City Police and federal investigators received information Friday that heroin was being distributed from the upstairs apartment.
With insufficient evidence to seek a search warrant, investigators said, they visited the apartment for a “knock and talk” — a casual visit to let suspected drug dealers know that police are onto them.
But the visit became more official, investigators said, when a resident of the apartment told them he had “rock” inside.
“I know from my training and experience that ‘rock’ is a street term for cocaine base,” FBI Special Agent Christopher Destito wrote in a court filing. “(The resident) then invited investigators inside.”
After initially denying any involvement with drugs, Simmonds allegedly admitted that during the last three months he traveled to Rutland on four occasions to distribute a total of about 20 ounces of crack cocaine.
Simmonds also allegedly told police that for six months starting in late 2011 he traveled to Burlington on about 20 occasions to distribute crack cocaine.
He denied being a gang member but told investigators his crack supplier from New York City is a “Crip” gang member and that his supplier during his trips to Burlington was a member of the “Bloods” gang.
Rutland Police Chief James Baker, who on Wednesday told residents in the city’s northwest neighborhood that he wanted to focus on criminal activity there, said Friday that Simmonds arrest was an example of increased police operations in the high-crime area and of ongoing cooperation between his department and state and federal law enforcement agencies.
“This is exactly what I was talking about the other night,” Baker said. “This was an example of ‘knock and talk’ and interaction with the tip lines leading to information that resulted in an arrest.”