Drug Task Force makes major drug bust in Tisbury

Adam and David Robinson, both arrested on drug-related charges, at their arraignment in Dukes County district court. —Stacey Rupolo

updated May 3, 10:30 am

A father and son facing a long list of drug-related charges, including possession of heroin with intent to distribute, pleaded not guilty Friday in Dukes County District Court.

Bail was set by Judge Don Carpenter at $20,000 for David Robinson, 59, and bail for his son, Adam Robinson, 35, was set at $25,000. Adam Robinson’s bail from a previous arrest in Boston was revoked, and he is being held without bail for 90 days in the Dukes County Jail. Both men were scheduled for pretrial hearings May 15.

On Wednesday, the Martha’s Vineyard Drug Task Force arrested Adam and David Robinson after a search of their home at 83 North William Street in Tisbury at approximately 6 pm, according to Tisbury Detective Max Sherman, who serves on the task force.

Police seized 81 individual paper folds which contained a brown powdery substance believed to be heroin, and scales commonly used to weigh drugs for distribution.

Multiple safes were found at the house. According to the police report, Adam Robinson claimed he didn’t know the combinations. Members of the Tisbury Fire Department were called to the scene, and successfully opened them by removing the hinges with “hydraulic extrication tools” — the equipment used to rescue an accident victim from a crumpled car — according to Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling. “I’ve been with the department since 1980, and that was a first,” he told The Times.

One of the safes contained bundles of paper folds with suspected heroin inside.

Both men were are charged with possession of heroin with the intent to distribute, drug violation in a school zone, and conspiracy to violate drug laws.

This is the second drug-related arrest for Adam Robinson in the past month. On March 27, Boston police arrested him in Mattapan and recovered 186 paper folds of heroin (more than 30 grams), one plastic bag of cocaine (approximately 14 grams), nine Xanax pills, and two trazodone pills. He was charged with trafficking a Class A drug (heroin), possession with intent to distribute a Class B drug (cocaine), Class C and Class E drugs, and conspiracy to violate drug laws. He was out on $7,500 bail at the time of his arrest. Coincidentally, he’d had a pretrial conference in a Boston court earlier on Wednesday, hours before task force members descended on his Tisbury residence.

Dark cloud over the neighborhood

A Tisbury resident who asked not to be identified said the arrests are a welcome development in the neighborhood. “It’s definitely a relief. People have been genuinely afraid,” he said. “This is a wonderful neighborhood, and that house has been a dark cloud over it for some time. There are people coming and going at all hours, in all different states of mind, people screaming and yelling; it was bizarre. It came to a head last month when a woman overdosed and was half naked, half in the road. Fortunately the police saved her with Narcan, which I hear happens almost every day on the Island.”

High praise was given to Tisbury police and the Drug Task Force.

“The police have been super-professional,” the resident said. “We all got together a while back and expressed our concerns. They’ve been a steady presence, and have been parked here a lot.”

He said police had advised them not to put up security cameras or to get directly involved because of possible retaliation when the Robinsons get out of jail. After his arrest in Boston, Adam Robinson was jailed for three days before being released on bail.

“We had a lot of help from concerned citizens,” Detective Sherman told The Times. “It came to a head with the medical emergency with the woman overdosing in front of his house. She literally brought it out into the street. Right after that, we had a meeting with about 15 people from the neighborhood. They were concerned about their own safety and about people breaking into their houses. I gave some of them my email and cell phone, and they texted me and called me, giving me information that helped us figure when people are coming and going and who was coming and going. This would have taken longer if the people in the neighborhood hadn’t taken action,” he said. “We had marked units driving up and down the streets and parked in front of the house, and we had unmarked cars surveilling the house, but we can only be so many places at once. It was a real collaborative effort.”

Detective Sherman said the Robinsons had been under surveillance for more than six months. “We didn’t want to have it kicked out of the court,” he said. “A quick arrest can be a temporary solution to a long-term problem. If we took a shortcut, he’d be right back doing what he does.”

According to Edgartown Detective Michael Snowden, also a member of the Drug Task Force, activity at Robinson’s house dropped off after Adam Robinson’s Boston arrest in March, but only briefly. “About a week after his arrest, the activity picked up again at the house,” he said. “He was going off-Island more frequently, and his pattern was pretty consistent with his pattern prior to his arrest in Boston.”

Leading up to the arrests, Detective Snowden said, the director of the nearby Vineyard Montessori School contacted police after finding a syringe in front of the school.

A heroin arrest last weekend also potentially implicated the Robinsons. “We had three overdoses last weekend, one of them fatal,” Detective Snowden said. “One of the people was arrested for possession with intent to distribute heroin. We recognized the packaging as similar to the Robinsons’. The next day David Robinson showed up at the Tisbury police station looking to get the vehicle, and inquired about the cell phone. We knew something was going on.”

Detective Sherman said he’s hopeful the months of work will pay off in the courtroom. “Obviously that’s out of our control, but we feel confident with the case we’re bringing forward,” he said. “Especially considering the recent Boston arrest, and the fact that they were almost literally on school property.”