A Charleston man could serve up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to aiding a drug trafficking operation in Penobscot and Aroostook counties.

Thomas Hammond, 24, pleaded guilty in district court in Bangor on Thursday to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and fentanyl, according to Joel Casey, assistant United States attorney.

Hammond is one of 17 people suspected of trafficking methamphetamine and fentanyl in Penobscot County and Aroostook County over a period of about four years.

Carol Gordon, 52, of Bangor; Joshua Young, 32, of Presque Isle; Sarah McBreairty, 33, of Dixmont; and Jared Fogg, 32, of Florida entered guilty pleas in connection with the drug trafficking scheme. At least nine of the 17 defendants have made court appearances and entered guilty pleas, according to Casey.

The following people were indicted on a charge of conspiring to distribute drugs between Jan. 1, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2021: Daquan Corbett, 27, of Brockton, Massachusetts; James King, 52, of Caribou; John Miller, 21, Caribou; James Valante, 40, of Linneus; Andrew Adams, 30, of Windham; Thomas Hammond, 23, of Charleston; Wayne Smith, 31, of Charleston; Shelby Loring, 27, of Bangor; Aaron Rodgers, 41, of Bangor; Jason Cunrod, 41, of Caribou; Joshua Jerrell, 27, of Orrington and Christopher Coty, 41,of Windham, in   February 2022. It was unclear as of Thursday as to whether all of the defendants have made court appearances or entered pleas.

The indictment alleges that the conspirators were responsible for distributing more than a pound of methamphetamine and nearly a pound of fentanyl in Penobscot and Aroostook counties.

The charges stem from a September 2019 stop on Interstate 95 during which Maine State Police troopers found five pounds of methamphetamine. That stop prompted the investigation into the drug ring that authorities say lasted about four years.

Hammond could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, along with up to a lifetime of supervised release.

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.