Woman charged with selling drugs out of her Shelburne Road home

Tonyel Colby

A 40-year-old Shelburne woman used her home on U.S. 7 to distribute illegal drugs in her trafficking business, according to claims in newly unsealed records in federal court in Burlington.

Tonyel Colby faces seven charges of distribution of three types of drugs as part of separate investigations in 2016 and 2017. U.S. District Court records show.

She is charged with four counts of distribution of cocaine on Aug. 30, 2016,  Oct. 17, 2016, Oct. 25, 2016, and Nov. 1, 2017; two counts of distribution of fentanyl on Nov. 2, 2017 and Nov. 15, 2017; and one count of distribution of heroin on Nov. 7, 2017.

Colby, who has earlier drug cases on her criminal record, pleaded not guilty in federal court last month to the seven new felony charges. Colby, also known as Tonyel Hotchkiss, is being held without bail at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington.

Federal agents doing surveillance spotted her 17-year-old son during one of the drug sales at her Shelburne residence during the fall. In 2008, federal court records showed Colby had three children.

Colby had been out of jail on bail for charges for possession of crack and powder cocaine following a northbound traffic stop on Interstate 89 in Middlesex on Oct. 25, 2016. She was ordered by a judge to stay away from drugs.

On Aug. 30, 2016, the Vermont Drug Task Force had started an investigation into Colby and soon had made purchases of cocaine from her over a two month period, Special Agent Tam Vieth of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said in a court affidavit. During that investigation, a judge agreed to allow them to put a tracking device on her car, which was the same vehicle stopped in Middlesex.

By the fall of 2017 the task force had begun another investigation into Colby continuing to distribute heroin and crack cocaine, Vieth said in a sworn affidavit. Investigators monitored three drug sales of either cocaine or heroin between Oct. 25 and Nov. 14, including two inside Colby’s home, Vieth reported.

On Nov. 15, another deal was set up for Colby to sell 10 bags of heroin for $100 at her residence to a confidential informant, Vieth said. During the sale, there was discussion about a future potential sale of an additional 100 bags of heroin from Colby through her drug source, the affidavit noted. Colby said it should not be a problem, Vieth reported.

The informant in the Nov. 15 sale reported Colby obtained the drugs from her bedroom. When the drugs were handed over to an investigator, a state police detective assigned to the task force said the substance was packaged in a manner similar to what was thought to be heroin in an earlier sale, but a field test showed that substance was fentanyl, Vieth said.

Based on the drug sales at the home, Federal Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy approved a search warrant for Colby’s residence at 2689 Shelburne Road. The warrant covered the first-floor apartment, the basement and a detached two-car garage. Federal agents searched the home Dec. 4, seeking evidence of distribution of three drugs – heroin, fentanyl and cocaine – records show. The apartment house, which has a large outdoor playground for children, is between Ethan Allen Furniture and the Route 7 Liquor and Deli Store and across the street from Champlain Lanes.

After Colby’s arrest, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Ophardt argued she would be a danger to the community if released. Conroy agreed and ordered her detained until trial, noting that Colby has a criminal history, substance abuse issues, and participated in criminal activity while under court supervision.

The search warrant application and other related records were all sealed until late last week. The newly released court records show investigators seized suspected drugs, a laptop computer, a tablet, two digital scales, two cellphones and 14 handbags from Colby, who is a Manchester, N.H., native.

Past problems
Federal court records in Vermont from 2008 show Colby – then known as Hotchkiss and living in St. Albans – was convicted for allowing her apartment at 24 Lower Weldon Road to be used as a cocaine distribution site in early 2007. Two men from the Bronx were arrested with her.
Because of the serious nature of the crimes, the case was sent to federal court for prosecution.
Federal Judge William K. Sessions III gave Colby a break. She could have been imprisoned for up to 20 years, but the judge sentenced her on July 21, 2008, to three years on probation, with six months of home confinement. The judge also urged her to try to restore her certification as a licensed nursing assistant.

Colby needed treatment for drug and alcohol dependence and longstanding psychological issues, her lawyer, David V. Kirby, wrote then. Prosecutors agreed not to file other possible charges and also dropped two counts in the indictment filed against her.

In the 2008 case, the Vermont Drug Task Force, St. Albans city police and state police were investigating a crack cocaine ring in Franklin County. In a raid on Colby’s apartment, police found 60 grams of prepackaged crack cocaine and about $8,000 in cash, according to Vermont State Police Lt. Leo Bachand, then-commander of the Northern Drug Task Force.

Also arrested at the time were two men from the Bronx – Lenaire Gomez, then 23, and Javon Thompson, then 21 – for possession and distribution of cocaine. Thompson was sentenced to five years in prison followed by four years of supervised release with various special conditions for future behavior. Gomez received a two-year prison sentence with three years of supervised release and special conditions.

Little was known about what happened to Colby after that case until New York State Police arrested her on a charge of felony possession of an electronic stun gun about 1 a.m. on Oct. 12, 2014. She was charged after a traffic stop in the town Plattsburgh and jailed for lack of $5,000 bail.

It is unclear how that case was resolved, but Colby resurfaced in Vermont in October 2016 when she was charged with two counts of possession of crack and powder cocaine following the traffic stop on Interstate 89 in Middlesex for a lane violation.

State and Montpelier police obtained a search warrant for Colby’s 2012 red Nissan Sentra and discovered 57 grams of crack cocaine and 15 grams of powder cocaine in the vehicle, records show. She was released last July 27 with court conditions, including she not buy, have or use regulated drugs without a valid prescription.

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