An investigation that stemmed from complaints about drug activity in a Milton neighborhood resulted in a federal indictment late last year.

Convicted felon Jerry Romero, 63, was indicted in U.S. District Court in September for intent to sell heroin and cocaine base and illegally possessing a firearm, court documents show.

He had operated out of a rented property at 77 Bear Trap Rd. in Milton, where neighbors had noticed suspicious activity, Milton Police Detective Frank Scalise said.

“Everyone says they don’t know what drug deals look like because they’re average citizens, but they know what’s odd; they know what different behavior is,” Scalise said. “When cars go in and out of a place and people are walking down a road where there’s nowhere to walk, they notice.”

A judge granted Scalise a search warrant on Sept. 14, 2018 with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in tow. Romero was on supervised release for a prior federal conviction and had recently moved to town, Scalise said.

“As soon as he stepped his feet down here in Milton, we were starting to get complaints,” he said.

An affidavit from U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Adam Chetwynd says police detained Romero and two women while police conducted the warrant. Romero told officers drugs were hidden in the bathroom trash can, and money was stashed in the bedroom dresser.

Indeed, police found 480 bags of heroin, 61 grams of cocaine base and $3,000 at the residence, the affidavit says. Police also found a gun safe, the combination for which was written on a business card in Romero’s wallet. Inside was ammunition and a .380 Glock pistol, which Romero was prohibited from possessing as a convicted felon, court documents say.

Romero has a lengthy federal criminal history dating back 1989, when he was convicted for distributing cocaine. Other convictions include possession of a firearm as a felon in 1995, possession and intent to distribute heroin in 2002 and conspiracy to distribute heroin in 2017, court documents show.

Scalise, the Milton detective, said this case was more time consuming because it relied on surveillance instead of controlled drug buys with informants. The DEA joined in when police learned Romero had previous federal convictions, he said.

Scalise said this case illustrates the importance of residents calling police when they notice unusual behavior. Police may not deliver immediate results, often because they’ve partnered with federal agencies to build a stronger case, he said.

“It’s really a matter of putting that call in and getting in touch that makes a difference,” Scalise said.

Romero pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was ordered detained pending trial after the court concluded Romero could flee or put the community at risk if he was out on bail. The government said Romero has a “long history of violating court-ordered conditions of release,” including escaping from a federal re-entry center in 2017.

Romero did not oppose the motion.

If convicted of the drug crime, Romero faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence.