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NEWS DIGEST

$800K to fight human trafficking in N.H.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Thursday, U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, along with U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas, all D-N.H., announced nearly $800,000 in federal funds to combat human trafficking in New Hampshire.

“Human trafficking is an insidious crime that exploits the most vulnerable in our society. Human trafficking often goes undetected which is why we need to direct resources to law enforcement to investigate and prosecute traffickers, and connect survivors to support services,” Shaheen said. “This federal funding will bolster New Hampshire’s efforts to root out human trafficking and deliver justice. I’ll continue to prioritize bipartisan efforts to assist our local law enforcement as they perform this lifesaving work.”

“It is encouraging news that New Hampshire’s Department of Justice will receive additional resources to help prevent human trafficking and assist the survivors of these heinous crimes,” Hassan said. “I am grateful for the work of our law enforcement and community organizations like Waypoint in doing everything that they can to address human trafficking, and I remain committed to advocating for federal resources for our state as we continue these critical efforts.”

“Human trafficking devastates lives and we have a responsibility to fight back,” Kuster added. “This funding will help improve support services for survivors and our ability to prosecute and bring to justice those responsible for instigating these heinous crimes. I will continue my efforts to combat human trafficking and all forms of sexual violence and modern slavery.”

“The state of New Hampshire has served as a leader in the fight to combat human trafficking, but the work is far from over,” Pappas added.

N.H. man sentenced on meth charges

CONCORD – Alfonz Vei, 45, of Dover, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for distributing methamphetamine, U.S. Attorney Scott W. Murray announced on Thursday.

On Jan. 11, postal inspectors intercepted a package from a fictitious address and addressed to a residence in Dover, where Vei had a prior affiliation. Investigators observed Vei arrive at the address at approximately the time the package was due to be delivered. The package was searched pursuant to a warrant and was determined to contain 444.4 grams of methamphetamine.

On Jan. 16, Vei was stopped driving a car in Exeter. He had an unloaded Glock 9 mm firearm in the vehicle, as well as approximately one ounce of methamphetamine and 115 ecstasy pills.

Hodgkins was sentenced to 84 months on Sept. 25.

“Methamphetamine is a dangerous drug that presents a growing threat to the citizens of New Hampshire,” Murray said. “Even as we combat the opioid crisis, we remain committed to working closely with our law enforcement partners to identify, prosecute, and incarcerate those who endanger our community by distributing methamphetamine and other dangerous drugs.”

N.H. man sentenced on fentanyl charges

CONCORD – Randy Stevens, 29, of Farmington, was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for conspiracy to possess fentanyl with intent to distribute and possession of fentanyl with the intent to distribute, U.S. Attorney Scott Murray said Thursday. On the evening of June 2, 2018, a Kingston police officer conducted a traffic stop of a motorcycle that Stevens was operating on Route 125. Stevens provided the officer with a false name and the officer later recovered 42 grams of fentanyl from the motorcycle.

Stevens previously pleaded guilty on Aug. 2.

“Interstate fentanyl trafficking has produced devastating consequences for the people of New Hampshire,” Murray said. “In order to stop this deadly trade and protect our citizens, we will seek the prosecution and incarceration of responsible parties. Mr. Stevens’ prison sentence should serve as a warning to drug dealers who are inclined to engage in similar conduct.”

N.H. woman pleads guilty to mail fraud

CONCORD – Jacqueline Masse, 49, of Hampton, pleaded guilty to participating in a mail fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney Scott Murray said on Thursday.

In correspondence with the insurance carriers, Masse demanded payments totaling more than $399,000. Some of the insurance companies responded by mailing insurance settlement checks totaling more than $206,000 to Masse’s home in Hampton and homes associated with her family members – who were unwitting participants in the scheme to defraud. Masse is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 28.

“Insurance fraud has a serious impact on hard-working individuals and families, as it drives up their insurance premiums and makes it more difficult to collect on legitimate claims,” Murray said. “The conduct in this case was carefully planned and persistent. It involved the attempted theft of almost $400,000, the use of bogus documents, and Masse’s use of personal identifying information that belonged to innocent members of her family.

I want to commend the New Hampshire Insurance Department for its exceptional work on this case and its overall tenacious effort to investigate and prosecute insurance fraud in all of its forms.”

Town plans ‘Frost Fest,’ stops tree-lighting ceremony

DURHAM (AP) — A New Hampshire town that’s faced criticism over its annual holiday celebration is making some tweaks, planning a “Frost Fest” without a tree-lighting ceremony or grand entrance from Santa.

WMUR-TV reports in past years Durham’s held a tree-lighting ceremony. But, after some concerns that the event was too focused on Christmas, a working group was formed to make changes, such as not hanging wreaths on light posts.

The Frost Fest is billed as a “winter celebration” with a bonfire, cookie decorating, ice sculpting, crafts and activities.

Last year, town officials were under fire for denying a menorah to be displayed next to the tree decorated annually at a local park. The officials cited vandalism concerns.