For Immediate Release
Melvin Hill Convicted by Jury on Federal Drug and Firearms Charges
BURLINGTON, Vt. – The U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont announced that Melvin Hill, 44, of Tignall, Georgia, was convicted yesterday in U.S. District Court in Rutland on five drug and gun charges after a week-long jury trial. Chief U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford ordered that Hill remain in jail pending sentencing, which has not been scheduled. Hill has been held without bail since his arrest in March 2022.
According to court records, in January 2022, a confidential source told Burlington narcotics investigators that the source could buy narcotics from Hill. In February and March, this source made two controlled purchases of fentanyl from Hill in transactions that were recorded and surveilled by police officers. Officers learned that Hill was staying at a hotel in South Burlington. They obtained a state-court warrant to search Hill’s hotel room and the car he had been driving. Officers arrested Hill on March 10 and recovered a loaded pistol and crack cocaine from his person. In his car and hotel room, officers seized hundreds of folds of fentanyl, hundreds of pills containing methamphetamine and powder cocaine. They also found narcotics paraphernalia and around $13,000 in cash.
The following day, March 11, state and federal agents searched a storage unit that Hill had rented in Burlington. Inside, authorities found additional fentanyl, a second pistol and about a pound of pure methamphetamine.
In March 2022, the U.S. Attorney’s Office adopted Hill’s case for federal prosecution. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont had successfully prosecuted Hill in an unrelated drug case in 2012.
In July 2022, a federal grand jury in Burlington charged Hill, in a superseding indictment, with two counts of distributing fentanyl to the confidential source; possessing with intent to distribute fentanyl, cocaine, cocaine base and large quantities of methamphetamine; and two counts of possessing firearms as a convicted felon. Hill is barred from possessing any firearms because he has several felony convictions in federal court and in state court in Georgia.
“The Burlington Police Department is committed to public safety, and that includes protecting those who suffer from substance use disorder,” said Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad. “We do not tolerate trafficking poisonous substances into our community, particularly by traffickers who target vulnerable people. This case shows our resolve to hold these individuals accountable. The BPD’s team, including Drug Unit Sergeant Phil Tremblay, want to acknowledge the fantastic work at trial by Assistant United States Attorneys Stendig and Waples, and their legal team. We would also like to thank the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for their efforts in this investigation.”
“DEA is committed to investigating individuals like Mr. Hill who are responsible for distributing drugs like fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine to the citizens of Vermont,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Boyle. “Let this conviction be a warning to those traffickers who are distributing this poison in order to profit and destroy people’s lives. DEA’s top priority is combatting the opioid epidemic by working with our local, county, state and federal partners to bring to justice anyone who distributes deadly drugs.”
Hill faces up to life imprisonment, a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years, and a fine of up to $10 million. The actual sentence will be determined with reference to Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
This case was investigated by the Burlington Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assisting with firearms evidence.
U.S. Attorney Nikolas Kerest stated, “The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to prosecuting those who combine illegal firearm possession with illegal drug trafficking. The prosecution of Mr. Hill is an example of our commitment and that of our partner investigative agencies. We commend the collaborative efforts of law enforcement to investigate Hill’s conduct and to bring him to justice.”
At trial, Hill served as his own attorney. The prosecutors are Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gregory Waples and Zachary Stendig.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities and measuring the results.