Pence visit canceled due to imminent arrest on drug charge of recovery center business director

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Waiting for Pence: Vice President Pence was scheduled to arrive in Manchester NH on July 2, but the trip was abruptly canceled without explanation. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings,

CONCORD, NH – The mystery of why Vice President Mike Pence didn’t come to the state last July 2 appears to be solved after an employee at the Salem drug recovery center Pence was to visit pleaded guilty last week in federal court to his involvement in fentanyl trafficking.

On Friday, Jeff Hatch of Manchester pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to calling a Lawrence, Mass., drug dealer on July 25, 2017, to arrange the purchase of 1,500 grams of fentanyl that has a street value of about $100,000. 

In the spring of 2017, Hatch allegedly was working as a courier for a Manchester drug dealer, who is not identified in court documents. The drug dealer would send couriers, one of whom was Hatch, to Lawrence, Mass., to buy drugs and bring them back to Manchester to be sold.

Jeff Hatch/LinkedIn

The couriers would then return to Lawrence with the drug money and/or buy more drugs to be sold in Manchester. 

Law enforcement identified and arrested several of the New Hampshire drug dealer’s couriers, including Hatch.

In exchange for his guilty plea to one count of using a telephone to commit the crime of unlawful distribution of fentanyl,  prosecutors agreed to recommend Hatch be sentenced to four years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Politico broke the story on Monday saying Pence, who was about to board Air Force Two to travel to Granite Recovery Centers in Salem on July 2, was stopped to ensure he wouldn’t be shaking hands with a drug dealer.

Hatch, chief business development officer for Granite Recovery Centers and a former New York Giants football player,  had been under investigation by federal, state and local law enforcement for at least two years. 

“I am shocked, disappointed, and heartbroken,” Eric Spofford, CEO of Granite Recovery Centers, said in a prepared statement. “Neither I nor anyone at Granite Recovery Centers was aware of Jeff’s actions. It was, unfortunately, a well-kept secret. I was made aware of this situation today (Monday) at approximately 11 a.m. I don’t condone what he did and I’m incredibly upset. He was terminated immediately.”

Hatch has spoken publicly about his own addiction saying he became hooked on opiates after suffering a back injury in his 20s.

Governor Chris Sununu issued a statement Monday in reaction to the Politico article.  

“For someone to have potentially abused their position within the treatment, prevention, and recovery community is a grave breach of trust and morally abhorrent. If these reports are true, his cooperation in this investigation better have been sufficient enough to justify such a lenient plea agreement.”

In 2017, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen,  D-N.H., joined Hatch at the Lin-Wood Public School in Lincoln for a discussion about opiate addiction with students and athletic directors.

“Granite Staters seeking recovery from substance use disorders put their trust in Mr. Hatch and it’s incredibly disappointing to see how badly that trust was betrayed,” Shaheen said in a statement Monday.  “He needs to be held accountable.”

Granite Recovery Centers have more than 200 dedicated, passionate people who go above and beyond to fight in the mission against addiction every single day, Spofford said.

“The actions of one do not discredit the amazing work they all do,” he said.  “Addiction is insidious.  This illness affects people from all walks of life. From the inner city poor to CEOs, lawyers, and doctors. This situation highlights why those of us on the front lines need to remain vigilant and must battle every day against addiction and the opioid epidemic.”

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Pat Grossmith

Pat Grossmith is a freelance reporter.