Bethel Man Takes Plea For Narcotics Trafficking – The White River Valley Herald –

Serving the Communities of Vermont's White River Valley Since 1874

James Bannister, 57, of Bethel pleaded guilty this week to a felony charge of knowingly conspiring to possess with intent to distribute the drugs tapentadol, tramadol, and carisoprodol.
Bannister was arrested in April, after an extensive investigation involving the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, Homeland Security investigators, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Rutland City Police Department.
An initial charge of importing carisoprodol into the United States was terminated November. In June, Bannister was charged with knowingly possessing narcotics with intent to distribute.
After his arrest earlier this year, Bannister pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday. His sentencing, set for March could yield a maximum of 20 years in prison, lifelong supervised release, and up to a million-dollar fine.
The Investigation
“Beginning in June of 2020, FDA-OCI, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) began investigating the exportation, importation, and sale of unapproved and misbranded drugs and controlled substances by a network of individuals and companies both inside and outside of the United States,” including Bannister, wrote FDA office of criminal investigations Special Agent Derek Roy, in an affidavit.
“During this investigation, investigators have seized parcels containing misbranded prescription drugs and/or controlled substances sent to Bannister,” wrote Roy.
As part of the investigation, investigators seized several packages addressed to Bannister and others, that arrived at the UPS store in Rutland.
On September 7, 2020 investigators found two packages addressed to Bannister at the Rutland UPS store containing the muscle relaxant, carisoprodol, in pill form. The first parcel contained 880 grams of the drug, the second parcel contained 878 grams.
On September 18, 2020 another parcel destined for Bannister at that UPS Store was inspected and seized— this one containing 1,532 grams of carisoprodol.
On October 27 that same year, investigators seized a package addressed to JB Beauty Solutions which contained 462 grams of tramadol in pill form. In Roy’s affidavit, he noted that tramadol, an opioid pain reliever, requires a prescription from an authorized medical professional. Investigators also found a package addressed to Balance Active that contained 462 grams of tramadol, on November 3, 2020.
The next day, investigators seized yet another package addressed to Bannister at the Rutland UPS Store which contained 500 grams of zolpidem—a sleep aid better known by its trade name Ambien—which requires a prescription.
In February of this year, Roy discovered a package addressed to Bannister shipped from somewhere in India, containing carisoprodol. Between March–April, Roy learned that Bannister had received four similar parcels at his box at the UPS Store, and that someone—not Bannister— had contacted the store to pay for Bannister’s box.
DEA diversion investigator Christopher Paquette found that Bannister did not, and had never, had a license with the DEA, prompting Roy to request the court charge him relating to knowingly importing carisoprodol into the United States from another country.
In a separate court filing, acting U.S. attorney Jonathan Ophardt indicated that in 2019 and around June 2021, Bannister and others—both known and unknown—willfully conspired to possess tapentadol (an opioid analgesic), tramadol, and carisoprodol, however detailed information about how Bannister apparently intended to distribute the drugs and where authorities discovered the tapentadol, is not indicated in the publicly available court filings.
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