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100 grams of heroin netted in Athol bust

ATHOL — Police put a dent in the area’s heroin supply when they arrested a Lawrence man they allege was about to deliver 100 grams of the drug to this area.

Julio Morales, 52, of Bailey Street in Lawrence, was arrested on charges of trafficking in heroin in the parking lot of Athol Memorial Hospital at about 5:47 p.m. Wednesday.

The street value of the heroin could be more than $65,000, according to a news release from the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office.

The heroin, packaged in 10 separate 10-gram “fingers,” would have been enough to fill up to 3,000 single-use bags, said Mary Carey, spokeswoman for the district attorney. Carey said prosecutors are confident that the intended recipient planned to cut the drugs to increase their yield before packaging and selling them.

Carey said the identity of the intended recipient will not be released at this time.

Morales, aka “Face,” was arrested as part of an investigation by the Northwest District Anti-Crime Task Force, composed of state and local police from Franklin and Hampshire counties, as well as Athol. The task force has made several drug arrests since its inception.

Carey said Morales was recently released from a seven- to nine-year state prison sentence. According to the Lowell Sun, he was arrested in May 2004 with 49 bags of heroin, and pleaded guilty to possession of heroin with intent to distribute as a subsequent offense in 2005.

Morales was scheduled to be arraigned in Orange District Court Thursday, but was taken to the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester when he complained of heart problems, according to Carey.

Morales was arraigned in the hospital, and ordered held on $100,000 cash bail, according to Carey.

Police Chief Timothy Anderson was glad to have the drugs off the streets of his town.

“I want to thank the DA’s office, state police and the task force for the assistance they’ve given us,” said Anderson. “They’ve been invaluable.”

As in other Massachusetts towns, Anderson said, heroin has become increasingly available in Athol in recent years.

“Heroin is a big part of the reason that we joined the task force, along with substance abuse in general,” Anderson said.

Area prosecutors are also proud of the task force’s success.

“We applaud this latest success of the Task Force,” said Jeremy Bucci, the DA’s chief trial counsel. “Its members continue to do all they can to identify and arrest those responsible for poisoning this community with this dangerous drug. This community cannot tolerate those who bring large quantities of heroin to our doorstep solely to line their own pockets.”

While those arrested with heroin in the Pioneer Valley often say they purchased the drugs in Holyoke, Springfield or Connecticut, Anderson said the North Quabbin area is something of a crossroads for the drug trade.

“With the location that we’re in, we not only get (heroin) coming in from Holyoke and Springfield, but also from the east, from places like Gardner, Fitchburg, Leominster, Lawrence and Lowell,” Anderson said.

The chief said that the drug’s packaging usually depends on where it came from, and the drug is alternately found in single-dose wax paper bags, as well as larger plastic bags and other packaging.

In January, the task force arrested an Orange couple after the husband allegedly drove to Fitchburg to pick up three grams of heroin, which his wife said they planned to cut, package and sell.

A 2013 task force raid in Orange netted dealer Kenneth Dennis, who had been packaging the drug in tinfoil, and had five shotguns he said he had taken in trade for heroin, and planned to sell. He pleaded guilty to drug and firearms charges last month, and was sentenced to six to eight years in state prison.

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