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Monday, May 7, 2012

Brookline police get $57k cut of cash seized from town man during 2010 drug investigation

BROOKLINE – The Police Department has received $57,034 as a result of a 2010 drug investigation – money that can be used for future drug cases.

The funds are the town’s cut of about $71,000 seized as a result of a 2010 drug case against David Surprenant, of Oak Hill Road.

Surprenant was charged with possession with intent to distribute after officers reported finding the cash and about a pound of marijuana in his residence. Federal prosecutors filed a drug forfeiture claim against his home, the $71,293 in cash and .22-caliber Marlin rifle that police found in January when executing a search warrant.

Under an agreement with federal prosecutors, Surprenant was able to keep his home, but forfeited all the cash. A federal judge issued a final order in the case on March 26, 2012.

Brookline police got a warrant for the search after learning Surprenant had taken out a hunting license and reported having taken a deer with a muzzle-loading rifle, according to court records. Surprenant couldn’t legally possess guns as a result of a felony drug conviction in 2005.

Police Chief William Quigley said the money was seized by the Police Department and turned over to the federal government. The town received its share after the forfeiture claim was settled. The government keeps 20 percent of the money seized in such cases, he said, and the town receives the rest.

The department already gave $10,000 to the Mason Police Department for their help in the investigation.

The money received has been placed in an federally mandated Equitable Sharing Account managed by the Police Department, which is audited annually by the Department of Justice. The money can only be used for drug-enforcement related costs.

In order to expend the money for a qualified purchase, Quigley said, the town will have to approve the purchase through a warrant article at Town Meeting.

The money must be used within three years but can be transferred to a Capital Reserve Fund to be put toward a larger purchase.

Quigley said the money will be helpful for the department, which deals with a fair amount of drug activity.

The department receives frequent tips about drug activity, he said last Monday, and it makes drug arrests fairly often. Many of those arrested, however, he said, are not residents.

Because the town is so small and nearly all residents know the department, Quigley said it is nearly impossible to conduct undercover drug investigations.

Quigley said he hopes the funds will enable the department to buy items – such as binoculars, night-vision goggles and thermal-imaging goggles – that will enable local officers to conduct surveillance in areas with reported drug activity without having to sit close by.

The night-vision goggles and thermal-imaging goggles, which use infrared light to detect body heat, will also help increase the safety of officers, who at times have to chase subjects on foot at night with only a flashlight, he said.

No official purchases have yet been made, and Quigley said he will continue to look into the best use of the funds for the department.

The outcome of the drug charges against Surprenant weren’t clear.

Danielle Curtis can be reached at 594-6557 or dcurtis@nashuatelegraph.com.