“Poughkeepsie Journal: ‘Vast Network Dealing death in the Hudson Valley,’ NY AG Calls Heroin Gang”
February 14, 2018
As published by The Poughkeepsie Journal, on February 13, 2018.
More than a dozen people face charges after law enforcement officials said they rounded up a drug operation that spanned the state.
Sixteen people were charged in Operation Yellow Brick Road, resulting in a 172-count indictment for conspiring to buy or sell heroin and cocaine in Newburgh and throughout the state including New York City and into Paterson, New Jersey. The indictment was unsealed before Orange County Court Judge Stephen Brown on Tuesday.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called the ring a “vast network dealing death in the Hudson Valley.” Schneiderman was joined by local law enforcement officials including Ashan Benedict, special agent in charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives New York Field Division and Orange County District Attorney David Hoover.
The 10-month investigation was led by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force, which partnered with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Newburgh police, and Orange County’s drug task force, sheriff’s office, and district attorney’s office.
“Our investigation uncovered a sophisticated drug trafficking ring that we allege peddled cocaine, heroin, and violence on the streets of Newburgh and throughout New York,” said Schneiderman. “The opioid crisis – and the violence that often comes with it – has been catastrophic for small cities and suburban and upstate communities across New York.”
While most members of the ring were based in Newburgh, the operation allegedly included John Boughton of Poughkeepsie.
If convicted each defendant faces between 8 1/3 years to 25 years in prison.
Besides bulk heroin, hundreds of doses of heroin in individual glassine bags and bulk cocaine, law enforcement officials also recovered a kilogram of methamphetamine, 40 pounds of marijuana, at least $36,000 and several weapons included a sawed-off shotgun. The investigation involved physical and camera surveillance, wiretaps, informants and undercover agents.
“It is only through coordinated enforcement actions such as ‘Operation Yellow Brick Road’ that law enforcement is able to pursue those higher-level drug dealers and craftier offenders who attempt to insulate themselves from criminal liability by dealing drugs through intermediaries,” said Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler. “Although we have emphasized education and treatment as important avenues to keep people off drugs in the first place, given the increased lethal potency of illegal narcotics, we have also made it a priority to attack the supply of narcotics by vigorous enforcement actions against narcotics dealers.”
The rise of opioid uses has resulted in overdoses and deaths. Opioid antidotes also have become widespread.
Naloxone use by first-responders and community opioid overdose prevention programs has been on the rise in Dutchess County over the last two years, while the number of fatal opioid-related overdoses has been decreasing, according to state Department of Health data.
In 2015, naloxone was administered 330 times in Dutchess County, according to a New York State County Opioid Quarterly Report. That year, 57 people died of an opioid-related overdose. In 2016, naloxone use jumped 23 percent, to 406 times. There were 48 overdose deaths that year in Dutchess.
According to the attorney general’s office, the leader of the drug ring was Damion Jackson of Newburgh who called himself “Toe-Toe.”
Under Operation Yellow Brick Road, the following were charged in Tuesday’s indictment.
Monique Bentley of Newburgh; Frederick Blue of Newburgh; Boughton of Poughkeepsie; Tykwon Burks of Newburgh; Steve Cohen of Newburgh; Adrian Hutchinson of Newburgh; Andrew Hutchinson of Newburgh; Damion Jackson of Newburgh; Demetrius Kelly of Newburgh; Kevin Maldonado of Newburgh; Kenny Maldonado-Irizarry of Newburgh; Oneil Mitchell of Newburgh; Kennedy Richards of Paterson, New Jersey; Ethan Santana of Newburgh; Dwaine Tate of Newburgh and Dwaine Watson of Newburgh.
Richards allegedly attempted to flush cocaine down a toilet before law enforcement reached him, which caused the toilet to overflow.
Several members referred to themselves as the “600 Gang,” a reference to the Chicago-based Crips Gang known as the 600 Black Disciples. Members bought and resold cocaine or heroin among themselves or to their own customers with a total of more than 200 customers.
SURGE in arrests
Under the Suburban and Upstate Response to the Growing Epidemic program, the state works with local law enforcement agencies to tackle drug traffickers in the suburbs and upstate New York. Since SURGE launched in April 2017, 288 drug traffickers have been collectively charged with more than 1,300 crimes.
The initiative is part of state and local law enforcement efforts to step up the war against the growing opioid crisis a statewide and nationwide problem.
“The opioid crisis – and the violence that often comes with it – has been catastrophic for small cities and suburban and upstate communities across New York,” said Schneiderman. “By partnering with local law enforcement, our SURGE Initiative is working to cut off the supply of drugs into our communities and drive violent gangs and traffickers out of business, part of our multi-leveled approach to tackling the opioid epidemic.”
He added that people struggling with opioid addiction are not a target of the SURGE Initiative.
Schneiderman called the efforts “multilayered and multileveled.”
While the drug crisis has been a serial problem in the state, “the big change is there is now a consolidation of these efforts.”
New York State is also part of a multi-state investigation where more than 40 states are reviewing the practices of opioid manufacturers and distributors.