A New Hampshire drug treatment center executive who was secretly under investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for drug trafficking was the reason Vice-President Mike Pence abruptly backed out of roundtable discussion where the two would have met to discuss solutions to the opioid crisis. On July 19, Jeff Hatch, 39, pleaded guilty on in federal court to a lesser charge of using a phone to commit a crime. Hatch was a former NFL player who later made a name for himself as a motivational speaker and the chief business development officer for Granite Recovery Solutions.
According to Politico, Pence’s team has remained silent about the cancellation, but President Donald Trump briefly commented on the situation.
“You’ll know in about two weeks,” Trump said cryptically in early July. “There was a very interesting problem that they had in New Hampshire I can’t tell you about it.”
Here’s what you need to know about Jeff Hatch.
1. Hatch Was Arrested for Trafficking Fentanyl
In July 2017, Hatch was arrested for moving 1,500 grams of fentanyl totaling more than $100,000 from Lawrence, Massachusetts to Manchester, New Hampshire. According to the DEA, just two milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal. In New Hampshire, more than 500 people die each year from fentanyl abuse.
Hoping to crack down on the flow of opioids into New Hampshire, authorities were able to target Hatch, who they say made a phone call to place an order with a dealer in Massachusetts. Hatch then brought the drugs back to New Hampshire, where they were repackaged and distributed to couriers.
Once caught, Hatch made a deal with investigators: He would help them catch other drug dealers in exchange for a much lighter sentence. He faces up to four years in prison and a $250,000.
When Hatch’s plea deal was made public, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu commented, “If these reports are true, his cooperation in this investigation better have been sufficient enough to justify such a lenient plea agreement.”
2. Vice-President Pence’s Unexpected Cancellation Caused Alarm
On July 2, Vice-President Pence was preparing to fly from Washington, D.C. to New Hampshire to discuss the opioid crisis with recovering addicts and staff from Granite Recovery Centers. During the event, Pence would have been meeting with Hatch. The plan hit a snag when reporters heard from Pence’s representative Randy Gentry at 11:30 a.m. that the vice-president had canceled his trip.
“There’s been an emergency callback,” Pence’s representative Randy Gentry told reporters. “The vice president was asked to return to Washington so at this time we’re going to cancel today’s event.”
Spokeswoman Alyssa Farrah later tweeted, “There was no ‘emergency callback’.”
“Something came up that required the @VP to remain in Washington, DC. It’s no cause for alarm,” Farah tweeted around noon. “He looks forward to rescheduling the trip to New Hampshire very soon.”
Reporters later learned that Pence had never left Washington. The sudden cancellation and confusion about Pence’s whereabouts led to concern from reporters, who wondered if the vice-president was ill or if some global emergency had taken place. White House staffers remained silent.
“I am told no medical issue caused the cancellation of @VP New Hampshire event and return to WH,” wrote NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell in a tweet. “Awaiting further clarification. Such changes are rare and therefore noteworthy.”
3. Hatch’s Boss Was Unaware of the DEA Investigation and is Calling the Incident “A Well-Kept Secret”
Since 2019, Hatch had worked for Granite Recovery Centers, a drug recovery program that operates 12 treatment centers across New Hampshire. According to GRC’s website, they offer “evidence-based clinical psychotherapies with a comprehensive 12-Step curriculum.”
GRC’s founder Eric Spofford was shocked by the turn of events. “Neither me nor anyone at Granite Recovery Centers was aware of Jeff’s actions. It was, unfortunately, a well-kept secret.”
“I was made aware of this situation [July 22] at approximately 11 am. I don’t condone what he did and I’m incredibly upset. He was terminated immediately,” he wrote on Facebook.
Spofford spoke of Granite’s 200 dedicated staff members “who fight in the mission against addiction every single day,” and emphasized that “The actions of 1 do not discredit the amazing work they all do.”
4. Hatch Admitted That Drug Abuse Cut His NFL Career Short
Hatch was born in Annapolis, Maryland in 1979 and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Throughout college, he seemed to lead to a charmed life. While playing for Penn he became unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection and Division I-AA All-American. Off the field, he won the Presidential Award for his work helping the homeless and dated Miss Maryland.
As a pro, the 6’6” Hatch played three seasons with the NFL. He signed a multi-year $1 million contract to join the New York Giants during the 2002 and 2003 seasons, then played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2005.
Hatch said he was first introduced to opioids after undergoing spinal fusion surgery. “It started with a back injury my rookie season. I was in a lot of pain. By taking a pain pill, it disappeared and I could make it through practice, meetings, and workouts with no problem. Slowly things got worse. Instead of one pain pill, I needed two. Before I knew it, I needed three,” he wrote. In speeches and interviews, he’s said that his drug use cut NFL career short.
Hatch later admitted he probably would have been an addict even if he’d not been injured. “My disease was in me long before I had a drink or took a drug,” he told Hartford Healthcare Behavioral Network in 2016.
5. Hatch Was a Popular Motivational Speaker & Writer
In addition to working for Granite Recovery Centers, Hatch was a much sought-after motivational speaker and writer, who talked candidly about his prior drug abuse. He frequently spoke with high school and college students about his battles with drug addiction and the road to recovery.
On the website Speakers for Change, where Hatch could be booked for public appearances, he was described as having “a warm, gentle honesty that you would not expect from a tough, former NFL player.” Hatch’s information has now been removed from the site.
In April 2017, he encouraged student-athletes at Lin-Wood Public School in Lincoln, New Hampshire to seek help if they had an addiction. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “If you suffer from it, talk about it. Let it be known because that is why we are all here helping. We know it exists, we know it’s real, and you are not less-than because we have it.”