BURLINGTON — A Caledonia County man, who got a major break when sentenced last year for his part in the theft of four firearms and two silencers from a local gun dealer, is back behind bars after testing positive for cocaine and failing to show up for drug treatment, federal court records show.
Dallas A. Bona, 41, of Lyndon, denied two counts of violating the terms of his federal supervised release when he was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Burlington this week.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Doyle ordered Bona detained pending resolution of the new case.
Bona had been sentenced last summer to six months in prison after pleading guilty to possession of one of the firearms stolen from 802 Sports, a federal firearms licensee on Little Egypt Road in Lyndonville.
The federal sentencing guidelines, which are advisory, had proposed a sentence of at least 7-2/3 years, but Senior Judge Williams K. Sessions III went with six months after hearing positives reports about Bona’s rehabilitation efforts in prison. The maximum possible sentence was 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Bona was told during his sentencing on June 15, 2020 that after a half year in prison, he would be under supervised release by the U.S. Probation Office for three years. The six-month prison term would run concurrent with any penalty imposed in a state court case, records show.
By this summer Bona’s drug problems resurfaced, officials said. Probation Officer Alyssa Malone wrote in court papers that Bona admitted he had used cocaine on both July 5 and 19. She also noted Bona had failed to appear at the Danville Health Center for a scheduled treatment session on July 7.
Bona and Caleb Cassidy, 32, of Lyndonville, were part of a Northeast Kingdom group involved in the theft of firearms and the eventual trade for drugs, officials said. They said the guns made their way out-of-state to drug suppliers.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Brittany Prue arrested Bona on orders issued by Sessions on July 22 for the new violations, records show. Bona remains jailed at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans.
The original case against Bona began to unfold in June 2019 when a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of stealing a .22 caliber semiautomatic on Dec. 12, 2018 and for the actual possession of the stolen firearm that day.
Lyndonville Police said three handguns, one rifle and two silencers were reported stolen from 802 Sports on Dec. 12, 2018. The .22-caliber handgun was later traded to Cassidy, who was living on Pinehurst Road in Lyndonville, for heroin, court records show. They note law enforcement later recovered the gun and obtained the federal indictment.
“This course of conduct, which involved stolen firearms and dangerous narcotics, presents a severe risk to public safety…” Assistant U.S. Attorney John J. Boscia said in court papers. Boscia said Bona knew or should have known Cassidy was taking the stolen guns to New York City.
Bona was not supposed to have any firearms according to his criminal record, which includes stealing two other firearms in an earlier theft, court documents show. They note his record is one reason the sentencing guidelines indicated he should have received a sentence between 92 and 115 months.
Defense lawyer Karen Shingler maintained such a sentence would be excessive and beyond what she thought was necessary to achieve the goals of sentencing.
Boscia did acknowledge jail appeared to have changed Bona.
Judge Sessions said he would give the defendant a “rare opportunity” to prove himself. Bona had said he had two young daughters at home to serve as his incentive.
Bona was on probation in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts for drug-related offenses when the stolen gun case happened, court records note.
Bona was a former student-athlete at St. Johnsbury Academy and later worked as a contractor and excavator. When he was 20 years old he was in a serious car crash that netted chronic lower back pain, Shingler said in court papers. He took advice from a girlfriend to seek help from a New Jersey doctor, “who prescribed a massive quantity of Oxycotin 80s” leading to his addiction, Shingler wrote.
By 2003 he had turned to heroin as a lower-cost alternative to Oxycotin to feed his habit, she said. By 2007 he was engaged in thefts to feed his drug habit for costs not covered by legitimate earnings, Shingler wrote.
With all his past crimes, Bona still had spent little time in prison. His drug rehabilitation efforts were spotty. He lasted from March to October 2018 at the BAART program in St. Johnsbury, but made it through only one day at Valley Vista in Bradford due to his inability to get suboxone.
The owner of 802 Traders in Lyndonville reported the guns missing in December and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives soon had a possible lead. A few days after the break-in ATF agents set up a controlled buy to purchase several guns, including the .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol, and some ammunition.
ATF agents were pointed to a Facebook account and eventually were directed to the Lyndonville residence of Cassidy to purchase the firearms, records show. During the investigation firearms, ammo and several adult marijuana plants were among the items seized during two court-approved search warrants at Cassidy’s residence, ATF Special Agent Eric Brimo said in an affidavit.
A neighbor also consented to a third search at his shed, where police believed Cassidy was storing firearms, including two semiautomatic rifles capable of accepting large capacity magazines, wrote Boscia, the prosecutor. The police search did net eight firearms, including handguns, rifles, shotguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, Boscia said.
Ten days after the second court-approved search, Massachusetts State Police reported Cassidy was in a northbound vehicle stopped on Interstate 91 in Greenfield, Mass. by troopers for defective equipment, Brimo said. Troopers said they seized 500 bags of suspected mixed heroin and fentanyl, 44 grams of suspected crack cocaine and more than 23 grams of suspected and two digital scales. Cassidy also surrendered $1,046, police said.
The three men and one woman in the car were charged with trafficking in heroin, cocaine and fentanyl and with conspiracy, police said. Cassidy also faced a charge of tampering with evidence, state police said.
Cassidy, as a convicted felon, is prohibited from possessing, purchasing or owning firearms or ammunition, the ATF said. His criminal record includes a felony conviction for driving while intoxicated – third offense – in Caledonia County in 2013. All three DWIs were amassed in five years and Cassidy also had a conviction for furnishing alcohol to a minor, records show.
He was eventually arrested on Dec. 17, 2019 in Vermont for being a felon in possession of firearms, records show. Investigation showed he had more ammo, digital scales and a money counter and Cassidy was found to be growing marijuana in a second floor closet and in his basement, Boscia said.
The ATF determined that Cassidy had traded about 24 firearms for drugs over the course of several months during the investigation, records note.
Cassidy eventually pleaded guilty to a single charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Federal Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford imposed a 30-month prison sentence on Oct. 22, 2019 and said it would run concurrent with any penalties imposed in Caledonia County or in Greenfield, Mass.
Cassidy’s defense lawyer, John-Claude Charbonneau noted Cassidy started with marijuana at age 10, alcohol at 15 and cocaine at 20. He eventually moved into crack cocaine and Percocet in 2017 and heroin and fentanyl in 2018 — culminating in multiple overdoses and his arrest in 2019, Charbonneau, a former federal prosecutor said.
Cassidy had a long work history as a cylinder operator for an electrical technologies company, but his drug abuse eventually cost him his job, court records show.
“In sum, the court’s sentence should make clear that unlawfully possessing and trafficking stolen firearms will not be overlooked, and that out-of-state drug traffickers should not view Vermont as an armory from which to obtain illegal firearms,” Boscia said in his sentencing memo at the time.