A prominent priest who served as pastor of St. Augustine's Cathedral parish in Bridgeport and was a close aide to then-Bishop Edward Egan was indicted on charges he was part of a drug ring that conspired to sell methamphetamine.
Msgr. Kevin Wallin of Waterbury was arrested on a criminal complaint Jan. 3 after a joint investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Connecticut State Police Statewide Narcotics Task Force.
Wallin, 61, resigned from his position at St. Augustine's, the main church of the Bridgeport diocese, in 2011, citing health and personal problems. He had previously served as pastor of St. Peter Parish in Danbury from 1996 to 2002, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1984.
Wallin was charged with six counts in the indictment Tuesday by a federal grand jury in Bridgeport and faces up to life in prison if he is convicted.
"News of Msgr. Kevin Wallin's arrest comes with a sense of shock and concern on the part of the Diocese and the many people of Fairfield County who have known him as a gifted, accomplished and compassionate priest," said Brian Wallace, director of communications for the Diocese of Bridgeport.
Wallin also worked as secretary to bishops Walter Curtis and Edward Egan in Bridgeport prior to his appointment in Danbury.
U.S. Attorney David Fein praised the work of local and federal law enforcement in uncovering the alleged drug ring.
"The hard work of the DEA and the Connecticut State Police in this case resulted in the dismantling of what we allege was a significant methamphetamine distribution organization that spanned from California to Connecticut," Fein said.
Investigators used court-authorized wire taps, controlled drug buys, physical surveillance and undercover officers to unravel the conspiracy, authorities said. Agents raided Wallin's apartment on Golden Hill Street in Waterbury on Jan. 3 and found suspected methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and drug packaging materials, according to the indictment.
Federal officials said Wallin allegedly received drug shipments from co-conspirators in California on six occasions between September 2012 and January 2013. An undercover officer then purchased the drugs from Wallin, officials said.
Wallin was granted a sabbatical by the diocese in July 2011.
"During his sabbatical, the Diocese became concerned about Msgr. Wallin's well-being and have continued to reach out to him," Wallace said. "To date, he has not spoken directly with diocesan officials."
Wallace added that Wallin's "faculties for public ministry were suspended in May 2012, and he has not been reassigned. The Diocese stands ready to help as it has throughout the past two years. We ask for prayers for Msgr. Wallin during the difficult days ahead for him."
Wallin was charged with conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine and 50 grams of actual methamphetamine and six counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
He faces a minimum prison term of 10 years and a maximum prison term of life and a fine up to $10 million on the conspiracy count and a maximum term of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million on each of the possession charges.
Four others -- two Connecticut men and a man and woman from California -- were arrested as part of the probe into the sales of methamphetamine, a stimulant that causes a "rush of euphoria," after it is smoked, taken as a pill, snorted or injected, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Research from the Department of Justice shows that the drug, often referred to as "meth," is more common in the western portion of the country, where it is both produced in small-scale labs and smuggled in from Mexico.
The other four arrested were each charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine: Kenneth "Lyme" Devries, 52, of Golden Hill Street, Waterbury; Michael Nelson, 40, of Buckland Hills Drive, Manchester; Chad McCluskey, 43, of San Clemente, Calif.; and Kristen Laschober, 47, of Laguna Niguel, Calif.
All five remain in custody, officials said. It wasn't immediately clear if Wallin or any of the other accused have hired attorneys.