A Keene man faces sentencing on Dec. 1 after pleading guilty in federal court Thursday to trafficking in fentanyl.
Joshua Schneider, 34, of Keene pleaded guilty to charges of distribution of fentanyl and possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute, according to a statement issued Friday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Hampshire. The office said he remains incarcerated.
Acting on a tip in May 2020, Keene police, in cooperation with Homeland Security agents, conducted a three-month surveillance and a sting operation, resulting in Schneider’s arrest in July 2020, according to court documents.
As previously reported in The Sentinel, Keene police began investigating Schneider that May after receiving a tip that numerous people were coming and going from his Davis Street apartment, according to an affidavit written by Special Agent Benjamin Slocum of Homeland Security Investigations, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Police began conducting surveillance of the apartment and observed many people stopping by briefly, including known drug users, Slocum wrote.
In June, a source told police that Schneider was selling drugs out of the apartment and sending people to Lawrence, Mass., to resupply, according to the affidavit. Working with police, the source bought $180 worth of heroin and fentanyl from Schneider, Slocum wrote.
Police observed Schneider and two others enter a van and drive to Lawrence on July 13, according to information released Friday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. When the van returned to Schneider’s apartment in Keene, police executed search warrants and found about 250 grams of fentanyl in the rear of the van where Schneider was sitting, the release says.
Police arrested Schneider and seized his phone, which included a text-message exchange about buying drugs, according to Slocum’s affidavit.
“Fentanyl traffickers seek to profit from the sale of a deadly substance that has ravaged communities throughout New Hampshire,” Acting U.S. Attorney John J. Farley said in a prepared statement Friday. “In order to protect public health and safety, we work closely with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute the drug dealers who distribute fentanyl and other dangerous drugs in the Granite State.”
A synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, fentanyl was involved in 322 drug deaths in the state last year, according to data released earlier this month by the N.H. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. In just over half of the deaths involving fentanyl (165), the drug was used by itself; in 157 fatal overdoses, it was used with at least one other drug.