At the start of Tuesday’s press conference in Riverhead announcing the results of a major East End drug investigation, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota stressed that the arrests that have already been made represent merely the beginning of what is to come.
Fourteen individuals were behind bars, he said, and 40 more will soon follow.
“They may think they’re going to get away,” Mr. Spota said of the additional suspected drug dealers not yet in jail for selling cocaine and heroin on the East End. “They’re not going to get away. We’re going to get them.”
The East End Drug Task Force’s nearly year-long investigation has so far led to the seizure of six kilograms of heroin and cocaine, and more than $100,000 in cash from 14 men and women, some of whom are suspected of being key players in two distribution networks operating on the East End, Mr. Spota said. Ten of the men arrested face felony charges.
Of the 14 people arrested this past month, nine live in Riverhead or Southampton towns, according to information provided by the DA’s office. Mr. Spota said most of the men arrested during the investigation have previous felony convictions and ties to the Bloods street gang. The drugs were sold in Riverhead, Southampton, Southold, East Hampton and Brookhaven towns, he said.
Prosecutors are now expected to seek grand jury indictments charging several individuals as “major traffickers,” which carries a maximum term of life in prison, Mr. Spota said.
The drug rings were selling to “addicts who crave heroin and cocaine,” according to the DA.
“These were major suppliers [who have] been on our radar for quite a while,” Mr. Spota added.
At the heart of the investigation are six suspected drug dealers and suppliers — Ronald Paschall of Northampton, Cory Woodley of Flanders, Jerome Carey of Sound Beach, John Miles of Mastic, Herbert Prophet of Uniondale and Reynaldo DeJesusMelo of the Bronx — who have all been charged with first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a Class A felony carrying a minimum sentence of eight years in jail.
Using confidential informants, the East End Drug Task Force began investigating Mr. Woodley of Flanders and Eric Thomas, who Mr. Spota described as a “significant reseller” who lives on Lewis Street in Millbrook Gables.
Both men served time in prison for previous felony convictions, the DA said, and investigators used electronic surveillance in the investigation.
Mr. Woodley and Mr. Prophet were caught on their way back from alleged drug suppliers in New Jersey on June 14 and found to be in possession of one kilogram of cocaine. One month later, a raid of Mr. Thomas’ house also led to the discovery of cocaine, scales, grinders and $4,000 in cash, Mr. Spota said.
Investigators believe the ring was pulling in at least one kilogram of cocaine every month from suppliers in New Jersey and Westchester County.
The investigation eventually led to Mr. Paschall of Northampton, who was caught with 1 1/2 kilograms of cocaine, which Mr. Spota said Mr. Paschall picked up twice per week in Yonkers and New York City.
Mr. Paschall is also connected to another ring operated by Jimmy Dean of Baiting Hollow. He was charged with two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and weapons charges after police found heroin and cocaine in his Warner Avenue home July 13, as well as a loaded shotgun under his bed and a loaded semiautomatic glock, Mr. Spota said. In addition, Mr. Dean had about $100,000 in cash located in a hidden compartment in his Toyota Pilot, the DA added. Mr. Dean is the leader of a local subset of the Bloods street gang known as the “Stones,” according to the DA.
Mr. Spota said Mr. Paschall, Mr. Carey, Mr. Miles and another suspect, Dwayne Harris of Riverhead, all have ties to the Bloods. Mr. Harris is facing a top charge of three counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
A neighbor of Mr. Dean’s said she saw an armored police vehicle approach the home last Thursday. The neighbor said the nearby homeowners association didn’t know what was allegedly taking place at Mr. Dean’s house — which features stickers on the door claiming it’s part of a neighborhood watch and is a “smoke-free home.”
The neighbor, who didn’t want to be identified for fear of safety, said she never had any problems with Mr. Dean, whom she said she barely knows.
“We don’t know what goes on beyond the hedges,” she said.
Another suspect in the investigation is Mr. DeJesusMelo, a livery cab driver from the Bronx who allegedly tried to sell two kilograms of heroin. Mr. Miles and Mr. Carey were later arrested on their way back from the Bronx with two kilograms of heroin and $22,000 in cash hidden in secret compartments inside the car, the DA said. A search of Mr. Carey’s house later revealed a secret compartment hidden in a fish tank that was activated by a magnet. A similar nightstand compartment was found in Mr. Miles’ home.
Five suspects were arrested during a July 16 raid of a home on Zion Street in Riverhead that had “long been a source of concern” for police, Mr. Spota said. The house was an alleged distribution center for the drug ring led by Mr. Woodley, the DA said, adding that a fatal drug overdose had previously been reported there.
Inside the home, police said they found marijuana, scales, cell phones and crack cocaine.
The property’s owner, Sadie James, said she lives in a house next door and wasn’t aware of any illegal activity.
“Why would I want to bother them?” she asked, referring to her tenants. “I don’t need to babysit grown people … How am I supposed to know what’s going on? I never see it.”
Ms. James said her stepson, Walter James of Riverhead, was among those arrested in the raid. She accused police of not displaying a search warrant before entering her property and damaging the front door of the house where she lives.
Ms. James, who has a “drug-free zone” sign in front of her house, pointed out that the individuals arrested at the Zion Street home are facing drug possession charges and said she doesn’t believe they were selling drugs. She also claimed the overdose death isn’t connected to the house that was raided.
“They want to make a big deal of this,” she said of police and prosecutors.
On Tuesday, Mr. Spota and other elected officials did just that, applauding East End Drug Task Force investigators for their bravery in light of recent police-targeted shootings across the country.
“Investigators work in an undercover capacity and I don’t have to tell you, with what’s happened very, very recently, the danger they’re put in,” the DA said.
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman called the busts “quite shocking” and thanked law enforcement for “putting their lives in jeopardy to make our communities safer.”
Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said a handshake wasn’t enough to thank Mr. Spota for the work of the task force. Instead, he hugged him twice and said the town is “forever indebted” to him.
Top photo: Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota shows how a trap allegedly used to store money and drugs below one of the suspect’s fish tank functioned. (Credit: Krysten Massa)
The following people have been arrested in connection with the investigation announced Tuesday. Included is their name, age, residence, the charges they currently face and their date of arrest:
• Ronald “Big App” Paschall, 43, of Northampton. First-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance; two counts of third-degree unlawful fleeing from a police officer in a motor vehicle. Arrested July 6.
• Jerome “Sweets” Carey, 31, of Sound Beach. First-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Arrested July 6.
• John “Mann” Miles, 44, of Mastic. First-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Arrested July 6.
• Cory Woodley, 36, of Flanders. First-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Arrested June 14.
• Herbert Prophet, 33, of Uniondale. First-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Arrested June 14.
• Reynaldo DeJesusMelo, 39, of the Bronx. First-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Arrested June 29.
• Jimmy Dean, 38, of Baiting Hollow. Two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance; second-degree criminal possession of a weapon; fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property; two counts of second-degree criminal use of drug paraphernalia. Arrested July 13.
• Dwayne Harris, 31, of Riverhead. Three counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance; fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance; second-degree criminal use of drug paraphernalia. Arrested July 13.
• Eric “E” Thomas, 32, of Riverhead. Two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance; second-degree criminal use of drug paraphernalia. Arrested July 14.
• Lakiwa Kelly, 30, of Shirley. Third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance; fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance; second-degree criminal use of drug paraphernalia. Arrested July 16.
• Walter James, 42, of Riverhead. Three counts of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Arrested July 16.
• Rosemary Hinchy Brown, 51, of Riverhead. Third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance; fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance; second-degree criminal use of drug paraphernalia. Arrested July 16.
• Tiffany Norris, 33, of Riverhead. Three counts of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Arrested July 16.
• Shawanna James, 43, of Flanders. Seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Arrested July 16.