Vice President Pence canceled visit to NH rehab linked to drug dealer investigation

PHOTO: Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks during the unveiling of a display featuring the spacesuit of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum July 16, 2019, in Washington, DC.PlayBill Ingalls/ZUMAPRESS.com/Newscom
WATCH News headlines today: Aug. 19, 2019

A New Hampshire man who recently pleaded guilty to facilitating illegal distribution of fentanyl worked at a opioid treatment center Vice President Mike Pence was slated to visit earlier this month, a trip that was abruptly cancelled without explanation.

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Jeffrey Hatch, previously the Chief Business Development Officer at Granite Recovery Centers, pleaded guilty last Friday to arranging the pickup of "approximately 1,500 grams of fentanyl" from a Massachusetts dealer and arranging its delivery to an unidentified individual in New Hampshire, according to court documents.

The investigation into Hatch was at least part of the reason Pence’s visit was canceled, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The illegal conduct took place nearly two years ago, according to a plea agreement, when Hatch used his phone to arrange the pickup 1,500 grams of fentanyl, a highly addictive opioid, from a Massachusetts drug supplier and deliver it to a New Hampshire drug distributor. That New Hampshire drug dealer went on to sell the fentanyl to an undercover law enforcement officer, according to court documents.

As part of the plea agreement, Hatch could face as much as four years in prison with a maximum fine of $250,000.

"I am shocked and disappointed to learn today that Jeff Hatch has pled guilty to a drug offense," Granite Recovery Centers CEO Eric Spofford said Monday in a statement to ABC News. "Granite Recovery Centers terminated Jeff’s employment today immediately upon learning about this matter."

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney in New Hampshire said, "We can't comment on pending litigation."

It was not immediately clear what additional litigation might be pending.

Hatch according to GRC's website was a former NFL lineman who played for the New York Giants for one season. He was front and center for many of GRC's promotional events, though it is not immediately clear whether he would have attended or interacted with the vice president on his planned visit to the center earlier this month.

PHOTO: Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks during the unveiling of a display featuring the spacesuit of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum July 16, 2019, in Washington, DC. Bill Ingalls/ZUMAPRESS.com/Newscom
Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks during the unveiling of a display featuring the spacesuit of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum July 16, 2019, in Washington, DC.

The White House and Pence's office initially declined to offer any explanation for the cancellation of the trip, though President Donald Trump teased, when talking to reporters, that it was "a very interesting problem."

"It had nothing to do with the White House," Trump said. "There was a problem up there and I won’t go into what the problem was, but you’ll see in about a week or two."

Hatch would frequently speak to students about opioid recovery, and would tell the story of how he was given opioids to treat an injury in his early twenties, saying the spiral started from there, according to WMUR. He was joined at one 2017 event by Sen. Jeannie Shaheen, D-N.H.

"Granite Staters seeking recovery from substance use disorders put their trust in Mr. Hatch and it's incredibly disappointing to see how badly that trust was betrayed. He needs to be held accountable," Shaheen said in a statement sent to ABC News on Monday.

A lawyer for Hatch did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment. The vice president's office also did not immediately respond to inquiries.

ABC News' Katherine Faulders contributed reporting to this article.