Islander caught importing heroin from Worcester

State Police Island commander Sgt. Neal Maciel (center) along with Martha's Vineyard Drug Task Force leader Sgt. Jeff Stone, escorted Richard J. Morris off the ferry Island Home, following his arrest this week.

A team of Island police officers arrested Richard J. Morris, 55, of Oak Bluffs, Monday afternoon, as he drove off the Island Home ferry at the Vineyard Haven Steamship Authority terminal. The arrest followed an investigation into heroin dealing and a timely inquiry from Worcester police regarding a possible theft of copper wire.

Mr. Morris has an extensive criminal record on-Island that includes convictions for heroin dealing, larceny, and receiving stolen property.

State Police and members of the Island Drug Task Force were waiting for Mr. Morris when the ferry moored at the dock. They arrested him in connection with the theft of copper wire from the NSTAR facility on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. Police later discovered what they believe to be 50 grams of uncut heroin hidden behind a tail light in the late model truck Mr. Morris was driving.

Mr. Morris was arraigned Tuesday morning in Edgartown District Court, charged with receiving stolen property, heroin trafficking, illegal possession of prescription drugs, and carrying a dangerous weapon. Police said they found a 27-inch blade concealed inside a walking cane on the dashboard of Mr. Morris’ truck. He was also charged with being a common receiver of stolen property, a charge that applies to someone who has previous convictions for buying, receiving, or stealing property. Under state law, the penalty for that crime is as many as 10 years in prison.

Clerk magistrate Liza Williamson set bail for Mr. Morris at $20,000. He remained in custody at the Dukes County jail on Wednesday. He is due back in court for a hearing tomorrow.

“This case came together rather quickly,” State Police Island barracks commander Sgt. Neal Maciel told The Times. The arrest began with the call from Worcester police.

“We received a call from the Worcester police department following up on an investigation at one of the scrap metal yards in Worcester, checking on the background of Richard Morris,” Sgt. Maciel said. Police learned that Mr. Morris had recently traveled to Worcester twice and sold approximately $9,000 worth of copper wire at a local, scrap yard.

The wire was from the Vineyard. Mr. Maciel said the copper wire was identifiable because it was manufactured specifically for NSTAR. An investigation revealed that a large amount of copper wire was missing from the Island NSTAR facility. The Martha’s Vineyard Drug Task Force, led by State Police Sgt. Jeff Stone, was already investigating Mr. Morris and had developed information that he frequently traveled to Worcester to purchase uncut heroin, and then returned to Martha’s Vineyard to sell it.

“Putting the two together,” Sgt. Maciel said, “we waited for Mr. Morris to return. We stopped his vehicle, advised him of his rights, spoke to him, and he gave us a story of where he received the copper, and that story didn’t jibe with the story he gave the police officer in Worcester.” The arrest, by Sgt. Maciel and other State Police officers, was without incident.

“It wouldn’t have gone as smoothly without the cooperation of Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and Worcester police,” Sgt. Maciel said.

Suspecting that Mr. Morris was involved in heroin dealing, the drug task force requested that a State Police K-9 officer experienced in narcotics investigation respond to the Island. About 8:15 pm Tuesday evening, Trooper Greg Keane, arrived on the Island with Karo, a dog trained to detect drugs.

“He performed a sweep of the exterior of Mr. Morris’ vehicle,” Sgt. Maciel said. “The dog indicated narcotics present, which gave us probable cause to search the vehicle. Located behind a brake light was a package containing five ‘fingers’ of a rock hard powdery substance, which weighed out to be approximately 50 grams of what we believe to be heroin.”

Richard Morris is well known to Island police. According to the Dukes County sherrif’s office, Mr. Morris has served two separate jail terms totalling 2.5 years. According to court records, Mr. Morris was released from jail on October 10, 2007, after serving one year for a larceny conviction. In the year 2000, he began a 1.5 year jail sentence, after he was convicted on a charge of drug possession, with intent to distribute.

This week, Mr. Morris joined his son, Andrew J. Morris, 24, of Oak Bluffs, in jail. His son was recently arrested on drug trafficking charges and remains at the Dukes County jail. Andrew Morris and an associate, John C. Andriotis, were arrested as they drove off a Steamship Authority ferry in February. The two men were charged with drug trafficking and conspiracy, after police found 54 grams of uncut heroin concealed in Andrew Morris’ underwear, according to court records. Already facing earlier and separate charges, Andrew Morris was ordered held without bail following the February arrest.