Wednesday, March 12, 2014
A former Amherst man who was arrested in Easthampton pleaded guilty last week in U.S. District Court in Hartford, Conn., to being involved in 11 pharmacy robberies in three states.
Dalbert Rodriguez, 30, who lived at 8 Edgehill Road in Amherst when he was arrested Nov. 13, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce through robbery. Controlled substances, including oxycodone pills, were stolen in each robbery in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Easthampton Police Capt. Robert J. Alberti, who was involved in the 2013 investigation while he was an investigator for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, said Tuesday that the single federal charge covers all 11 robberies. That means Rodriguez does not have to be tried in every district where the robberies occurred. Rodriguez, who also lived in Holyoke before his arrest, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 16 and could face up to 20 years in federal prison, Alberti said.
Alberti said he is pleased that Rodriguez will be locked up and unable to contribute to the growing problem of oxycodone addiction in the area. Because both the painkiller and heroin are opiates, people often turn to using heroin after getting addicted to oxycodone, he said.
“And heroin is the most destructive drug on the planet. Once you’re hooked, it’s deadly,” he said. “In my opinion, there’s an epidemic in our area.”
According to Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan, there have been 11 suspected overdoses in his jurisdiction since mid-December.
“Rodriguez is a good example of what happens when you have to feed your addiction,” Alberti said.
Alberti, who spent much of his time working with the Drug Enforcement Administration until he was promoted to captain in October, worked on the investigation for months with others in the DEA, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Massachusetts State Police, and police departments in the communities where the robberies occurred.
He said Easthampton Police and other investigators had been “watching” Rodriguez as a suspect and when a warrant was issued for his arrest in connection with the armed robbery of a CVS in East Hartford, they handcuffed him in the parking lot of the Eastworks Building.
He was initially charged only with that Oct. 18 robbery, in which he allegedly showed a handgun to a pharmacist, demanded he open a safe and stole numerous pill bottles. “But we liked him in all those robberies,” Alberti said.
After they were able to gather more evidence, Rodriguez was subsequently charged in connection with 10 other robberies between June and November of 2013. They involved Rite Aids in Holyoke and Chicopee and a CVS in Longmeadow; in Connecticut, Rite Aids in East Windsor and Plainville, Walgreens in Newington, Cromwell, and Manchester, and a CVS in Enfield; and a Walgreens in Providence, R.I.
“You work really hard to put these cases together and it’s great to see them through to fruition,” Alberti said of the conviction.
Rebecca Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.