MEREDITH, N.H. — Throngs of late-summer tourists strolled along the town docks Friday, turning this Lake Winnipesaukee resort into a colorful, laid-back escape from the workaday world.
But three miles away, a “No Trespassing” sign kept strangers away from a $1.2 million lakefront house that has moved from tree-fringed obscurity to the scene of an alleged drug felony involving safety Patrick Chung of the New England Patriots.
Chung has been indicted on a charge of cocaine possession stemming from a June 25 police call at the two-story gray house, which appeared empty Friday. A basketball hoop and boat trailer sat unused at the end of a long, gently sloping driveway.
Neighbors expressed disbelief at the charge. Not only is Chung an infrequent visitor, but he rarely draws attention when he does use the house, they said.
“I don’t believe any of this. He’s the nicest guy in the world,” said Karin Itrato, who lives beside the house Chung bought in May 2018. “He has his head on right. That’s just not him.”
Police responded to the home following a “call for service,” according to a statement from prosecutors. “During the course of that call, the police obtained the evidence which has led to the current charges being filed.”
Chung was not arrested, and it is unclear if he was in the residence when police arrived. Assistant County Attorney Kevin Cormier would not comment Friday on reports that the service call was triggered by a burglar alarm.
“This is to preserve the integrity of the judicial process and to ensure that Mr. Chung receives a fair trial,” Cormier said. Chung was indicted Aug. 8 by a Belknap County grand jury, and news of the charge broke Thursday.
Chung will be arraigned Wednesday at Belknap County Superior Court in Laconia.
Chung, who underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason, has developed into an excellent player for the Super Bowl champions since being drafted in 2009. He received a raise to $6 million from $2.4 million in April and is under contract through 2021.
For all his fame on the football field, Chung seems nearly invisible in this town of 6,200 year-round residents. That number dramatically increases in the summer, but Itrato said Chung usually uses his house in the spring and only a couple of days a month.
“He’s not here, basically. He’s just a nice guy enjoying his time off,” Itrato said. “Patrick is Patrick. There is no fakeness about him. He’s an incredible person with incredible skills.”
Across the street from Chung’s home, neighbor Jack Carey also said the football player is rarely seen and routinely quiet.
“He hasn’t been around much this summer,” Carey said. “The only time I deal with him is when I see him on TV -- not personally, not at all. He’s never been a problem in the neighborhood.”
However, Carey said, “all sorts of people” have been doing construction work on Chung’s house during the last two summers, presumably when Chung is away.
Chung “never draws attention” when he is in Meredith, Carey said.
“Sometimes, you’ll hear him go out in the morning because he has a truck with a loud exhaust,” he said. “But that’s it.”
Chung is not the only professional athlete to choose Meredith for a quiet escape, said Warren Clark, a town resident.
“There are a lot of them who move up here. But it’s not like they’re out on a Saturday giving out autographs,” Clark said. “They’re trying to get away from it all. People come from all over the country to relax by the lake.”
Musicians, actors, and other celebrities also spend time in Meredith, residents said. Many are well-known, but most are seldom seen.
In Chung’s case, outrage was hard to find. Questions about the charge were plentiful, but any criticism was mild.
At the Case n’ Keg, a package store near the lake, cashier Sue Wiseman shook her head slightly when asked about the charge.
“I’m completely indifferent to it. I really don’t care, but you can’t miss it,” Wiseman said, referencing Friday’s front-page spread in The Laconia Daily Sun.
Still, Wiseman said, “if he’s guilty of that, he shouldn’t be playing football.”
“He’s supposed to be setting an example,” she said.
Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.