Drug raid targets Hub firefighter's Maine home

By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / May 30, 2009
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A Boston firefighter was called a person of interest in a federal drug investigation after authorities raided his Maine home yesterday and allegedly seized 131 marijuana plants and cultivating equipment, worth an estimated $700,000, according to Maine authorities.

The firefighter, Sean Berte, 31, of Boston, was questioned last night by agents with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. He is the owner of the home that was raided in Bridgton, Maine, according to David Lyons, police chief in that town. He called Berte a "serious person of interest."

Berte's father-in-law, Michael S. Domenici, 60, of Rehoboth, who was at the house at the time of the raid, was charged with cultivating marijuana, Lyons said.

"This operation was sophisticated, well-organized," he said. "This guy had it down to a science."

Yesterday's raid was the third raid of a marijuana farm in Bridgton in the last week, the fourth since February, Lyons said. He noted that authorities have discovered a significant drug operation in the town of only 5,000 year-round residents.

Bridgton police have been working with DEA agents over the last two seeks, and an investigation led to Berte's home, Lyons said.

Berte is not the first Boston firefighter to be tied to alleged marijuana dealing. In November, a firefighter on disability retirement was arrested in Texas allegedly with 41 pounds of marijuana. The retired firefighter, Dennis J. Hogan, 53, of South Boston, was stopped for speeding in that state and a search of the vehicle allegedly yielded the drugs.

The department has also been tainted by drug scandals since the deaths of two firefighters in a 2007 fire in West Roxbury. One of the men had traces of cocaine in his system, and the other was legally drunk, autopsies found.

Steve MacDonald, a spokesman for the Fire Department, said last night that he had not heard of the raid on Berte's home and would not comment. Berte could not be reached for comment by phone last night.

Donovan Slack of the Globe staff contributed to this report.