PORTLAND — A 49 year-old New Hampshire man said to have sold or arranged with others to sell heroin and cocaine to customers in Sanford, Biddeford and beyond has been sentenced to more than 19 years in federal prison.

The news of the sentence came Friday from the U.S. Attorney’s office, the same day as the Maine attorney general announced there were 208 Maine deaths due to drug overdoses in 2014 ”“ the most ever, and an 18 percent increase over 2013. Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said 57 of the deaths were from heroin overdoses as well.

Andre Hunter of Rochester, New Hampshire was sentenced in U.S. District Court by Judge Nancy Torresen to 235 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and heroin. He pled guilty to the charges on December 18.

Hunter has an extensive criminal history. A review of the Maine Sex Offender Registry shows he was previously convicted of rape and sexual abuse of a child in Suffolk County, Massachusetts and so is required to register as a sex offender in Maine. A Boston-area online news organization indicates that in 2008, he was again charged with rape. According to the Portsmouth Herald, Hunter was also charged with drug possession and prostitution for his alleged role as a pimp in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in December, 2012. It is unclear if he was ever convicted of those crimes.

As to the most recent drug conviction, Maine State Police Troop A investigator Jeremy Forbes said Monday that Hunter either himself or his associates sold drugs in Sanford, Biddeford and in other locations in York County as well as in Cumberland County.

On September 26 he was stopped in a joint effort by Maine State Police, York County Sheriff’s Office deputies and federal drug agents while driving from Rochester to Portland because the police suspected he was delivering drugs. A search of his vehicle led to the seizure of about 24 grams of heroin and 5 grams of cocaine. A search of his Rochester home resulted in the seizure of a digital scale with drug residue, drug packaging and $30,000, according to documents on file at the federal court.

The court documents show that in June and July and September, law enforcement personnel conducted five controlled buys of heroin from a person Hunter had supplied. On these occasions, someone described in court papers as a “cooperating individual” working under the direction and control of federal drug agents placed an order for heroin by phone, and the individual and Hunter agreed upon a time and place in Maine to meet to conduct the transaction.

According to court records, from April 2014 until his arrest, Hunter distributed between 700 and 1,000 grams of heroin to dealers in Portland and Rochester who distributed it to customers in those areas.

Mills, the Maine Attorney General, said total drug-induced deaths increased from 176 in 2013 to 208 in 2014. She said the increase is largely due to a rise in deaths due to heroin, morphine and fentanyl, either alone or in combination with other drugs. Alcohol is also involved in about a third of all drug deaths; tranquilizers and antidepressants are frequently involved as well, Mills said in a prepared statement.

According to Mills, fentanyl-related deaths spiked ”“ jumping from 9 deaths in 2013 to 43 deaths in 2014. Fentanyl is the most potent opioid available ”“ 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. Police and prosecutors report that the fentanyl spike is largely due to non-pharmaceutical fentanyl being sold on the streets as a white powder and represented as heroin, Mills said.

“Maine saw an increase in drug overdose deaths beginning in 2001-2002 and it remained high, largely as a result of pharmaceutical opioid-related deaths,” said Marcella Sorg, of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine, who conducted the study. “What is remarkable about the numbers in 2014 is a new increase in heroin and fentanyl deaths driving the number of total deaths to an unprecedented level for Maine.”

Mills advocates for an approach that includes education, interdiction and treatment.

“No single focus will solve the problem,” Mills said.

 — Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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