Jeff Hatch, a former employee of Granite Recovery Centers, which operates 12 drug recovery facilities across New Hampshire, pleaded guilty to charges of fentanyl trafficking on Friday.
According to his plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Hatch transported 1,500 grams of fentanyl from Lawrence, Mass., to Manchester, N.H., in July, 2017. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, just 2 milligrams of fentanyl is a lethal dose for most people.
Hatch is a former NFL player who struggled with addiction following football injuries. He shared his personal experience in frequent public speaking events around the state. In April, 2017 he appeared alongside New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen at an event warning student athletes about the dangers of drugs.
Hatch has worked with Granite Recovery Centers since 2015, most recently as the group’s Chief Business Development Officer. He was set to greet Vice President Mike Pence during an event at a Granite Recovery Centers facility in Salem earlier this month. Pence abruptly canceled the trip, reportedly due to the fact that Hatch was involved in a federal drug trafficking investigation.
Exactly how Hatch was involved in that federal investigation remains unclear. Politico, which first wrote about this story, reports that Hatch agreed to cooperate with investigators in exchange for a lighter sentence -- up to 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The details of Hatch’s plea agreement bolster that idea. The agreement states Hatch was apprehended for selling drugs in Manchester in the spring of 2017, while the plea agreement regarding the related charges was not entered until last Friday. During the intervening period of more than two years, Hatch remained employed at Granite Recovery Centers.
In a Facebook post, Granite Recovery Centers CEO Eric Spofford said he was shocked and heartbroken.
“Neither me 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 at approximately 11am. I don’t condone what he did and I’m incredibly upset. He was terminated immediately.”
Spofford is a significant player in New Hampshire’s addiction recovery economy. Since he launched Granite Recovery as a sober living house in Derry in 2008, it has grown to include 12 centers around the state. He has also developed connections to elected officials seeking input on recovery and addiction policy. Then-Sen. Kelly Ayotte, for instance, invited him to testify before Congress in 2015.
Gov. Chris Sununu reacted to the news, issuing a statement on Monday calling Hatch’s actions “morally abhorrent.”
Sununu also reacted to the reporting that Hatch cooperated with federal law enforcement authorities.
“If these reports are true, his cooperation in this investigation better have been sufficient enough to justify such a lenient plea agreement.”