Undercover police in Newport, R.I., have busted a ring of alleged drug dealers from Martha's Vineyard, who traveled to Newport last week to buy a supply of the highly addictive prescription drug, OxyContin.

The arrests of two men from Oak Bluffs and one from West Tisbury mark the first OxyContin bust connected to the Island, according to state police in Oak Bluffs, who believe the drugs were headed back to Martha's Vineyard.

"They wanted to bring those pills back here," said state police Sgt. Jeffrey Stone. "We have people that are using it out here and getting it illegally, and we have open cases right now but no arrests."

Since the arrests in Newport last Wednesday and Friday, Sergeant Stone has been in touch with police in Rhode Island, trying to identify any other OxyContin ties on the Vineyard.

The three men arrested are Adam Robinson, 21, of West Tisbury, Robert Kaye, 56, of Oak Bluffs and Jason Bowes, 25, also of Oak Bluffs. Island police told the Gazette yesterday that Mr. Bowes also goes by the name of Jason Blodgett. A Florida woman, Adonay Encarnacion, 25, was also arrested. All are being held in jail in Cranston, R.I., without bail, police said.

The charges facing all four are conspiracy to buy and distribute OxyContin, a prescription painkiller made from oxycodone that replicates the effects of heroin.

Both Mr. Bowes and Mr. Robinson told police they work as car detailers. Mr. Kaye is a self-employed construction worker, and Ms. Encarnacion is a self-employed stripper, according to Newport police reports.

Mr. Kaye and Ms. Encarnacion were the first ones nailed in the police sting. Looking for a new supply of OxyContin, they headed to Newport Wednesday to buy $20,000 worth of the pills.

When they met up with undercover narcotics detective Michael Naylor in a Newport shopping mall shortly after 4 p.m., Ms. Encarnacion handed the detective a bag containing $18,000 in cash. Both were arrested, and after a search of their car and clothing, police also found another $2,000 in cash, nine oxycodone pills and a small amount of marijuana.

Detective Naylor also held on to Ms. Encarnacion's cell phone, and when the phone rang the next day, the detective kept the sting operation alive.

"When the phone rang, the man later identified as Jason Bowes asked ‘Where's Adonay' and ‘Did she get the stuff?'" said Newport police Lieut. Michael McKenna.

Detective Naylor then began to negotiate a new deal with the pair of men calling from the Vineyard, who wanted to buy 500 pills and agreed to come to Newport as soon as possible, police said. They settled on a price - $30 a pill.

"Jason told the detective he had a millionaire who lived with him on Martha's Vineyard who would buy anything he could get," said Lieutenant McKenna. "They agreed to pay $5,800, another $4,200 on Saturday and $5,000 on Monday."

Mr. Bowes and Mr. Robinson left the Vineyard early Friday morning and called the undercover detective for directions to the rendezvous site, the Jailhouse Inn in Newport. They arrived in a Cadillac Escalade sport-utility vehicle with Mr. Robinson driving, police said.

Mr. Bowes got out of the car and met Detective Naylor across the street in a church parking lot, where he handed him $5,800. Police moved in and arrested Mr. Bowes, and then stopped Mr. Robinson's car. Police found one and a half OxyContin pills in Mr. Robinson's sock.

Back on the Vineyard, Sergeant Stone said illegal use of the drug known as "hillbilly heroin" is growing at a rapid rate in Massachusetts, as it is in many other states. Elsewhere on the mainland, demand for the drug has led to robberies of pharmacies.

That hasn't happened on the Island yet, but Sergeant Stone said OxyContin has definitely arrived on the Island. People on the Vineyard are illegally selling prescriptions, and police are investigating tips that one Island physician may be involved in illegally distributing the drug, according to Sergeant Stone.

"We have everything the other side has. It's only a short 45-minute boat ride, and OxyContin is an up-and-coming problem," Sergeant Stone said.

According to Newport police, the alleged drug dealers said they were planning to sell the OxyContin pills for $75 a piece. According to a report from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, OxyContin is supposed to be a time-released pain-killer - but when drug users chew, inhale or inject the substance, it creates a "powerful, morphine-like high."

In some parts of the country, police have reported 75 per cent increases in property and other crimes linked directly to OxyContin abuse.