By Mike LaBella
---- — GROVELAND — Police say a married couple from Newburyport who came to town to sell prescription pain killers said they were having financial problems and needed to earn some extra money.
When they came to Groveland on Saturday to sell pills in a sting operation arranged by police, they had four young children in the back seat of their mini-van, police said.
While police were arresting the couple, other officers were speaking calmly to the children in an effort to prevent emotional distress.
“It’s concerning and disturbing that this couple were so comfortable doing this illegal business with children in the car witnessing the activity,” said police Deputy Chief Jeffrey Gillen.
Police charged Paul Robitaille, 37, and Jamie Robitaille, 31, both of 18 Franklin St., Newburyport, each with two counts of possession of Class C drugs with intent to distribute and conspiracy to violate the drug laws.
Police said the couple’s three children, two boys and a girl ages 6 to 14, along with an 11-year-old nephew were in the back seats of the family’s Dodge Caravan when they sold prescription pain pills to an undercover officer.
“We’re looking to combat drugs coming into Groveland, but we never expected to see four young people in a car,” Gillen said.
According to a police report on file in Haverhill District Court, Groveland Detective James Morton was investigating drug-related cases in that town when early this month he was informed by a confidential source about a husband and wife who were selling prescription pills for cash. The source said that in the past he had bought some of the pills from the couple, specifically Fioricet and Tramadol.
Morton, working undercover, arranged for the informant to meet the couple in the Pines Recreational Area on Saturday. The informant contacted Jamie Robitallie to say he was bringing along a friend who was interested in buying some pills.
According to the report, Jamie Robitallie told the informant that she was running late because she had to pick up her children and would be at the Pines at about 4:30 p.m.
The report said that when the couple arrived in a Dodge Caravan at 4:40 p.m., the informant and Morton got out of their unmarked vehicle and approached the mini-van. Morton handed the couple $360 and received 120 pills in return. When Morton asked Jamie Robitaille where she gets the pills and if he could buy more each month, she said they were her husband’s prescriptions and they refill them around this time each month.
According to the report, the children were in the back seat hearing and watching what was transpiring.
As the mini-van drove out of the Pines parking area, uniformed police in marked vehicles stopped it. West Newbury and Georgetown police helped Groveland police in making the arrests.
Morton identified himself and ordered Paul Robitaille out of the mini-van, while other officers ordered his wife out of the mini-van, police said. Officers seized the $360, along with an additional $115 along with 30 Fioricet pills and 93 Tramadol pills.
Paul Robitaille was taken to the police station and booked, while his wife was allowed to bring the children home and told to return to the station afterwards.
According to the report, Paul Robitaille told Morton that he and his wife were having financial problems and needed to earn some extra money. Paul Robitaille said they had come to Groveland four to six times in the past to sell pills, but they don’t usually bring their children with them. Police said they notified the Department of Children and Families of the incident.
Paul Robitaille was released on $40 cash bail on Saturday evening. His wife was summonsed to court.
They were arraigned yesterday in Haverhill District Court, where Judge Mary McCabe released them with a 60-day warning, meaning if they are charged with other offenses while they cases are pending they could be ordered held for up to 60 days without bail. They must return to court April 8 for pretrial hearing.