10/04/13 4:15am
10/04/2013 4:15 AM
COURT DOCUMENT IMAGE | A photo taken during Tuesday's raid of an Osborn Avenue property shows dozens of marijuana plants in the garage of Edward Dispirito, police say.

COURT DOCUMENT IMAGE | A photo taken during Tuesday’s raid of an Osborn Avenue property shows dozens of marijuana plants in the garage of Edward Dispirito, police say.

As a nor’easter pounded Riverhead with several inches of snow on a cold morning this March, a Suffolk County police detective scanned the houses along Osborn Avenue.

He was on the trail of a drug supplier — a “grow house” manager for a multi-million dollar marijuana operation in town.

In 2012, a grower busted in Suffolk County had turned informant, giving federal law enforcement information about a large-scale operation in Riverhead Town, run by a former trainee of his who split off to grow his own drugs after a dispute over a shortfall in the profit.

Now, as snow fell, the investigator was near the property of the informant’s former protégé.

The detective  — who served on the Internal Revenue Service task force tracking down the operation — saw more than four inches of snow blanketing the entire roofs of all the houses, garages and sheds on the block. All except one.

On a shed behind the garage in the northeast corner of a property just off the main road between Malcolm Way and Mill Road, the snowflakes melted the moment they touched the roof.

That hot-spot, investigators say, is where 70-year-old Edward Dispirito was growing a portion of his roughly $3.8 million worth of marijuana plants as part of an extensive growing operation hidden in his house, garage and sheds.

That story was part of a sworn affidavit filed in federal court this week by a Suffolk County police detective who obtained a warrant to search the houses of Mr. Dispirito and his distributor, 55-year-old James Ford, an ex-convict with an extensive history of drug arrests living in Seaford.

Tuesday’s raids uncovered nearly 1,700 marijuana plants, about 50 grow lamps and transformers, drying tables, harvest records and “multiple years worth of marijuana grow,” and an illegal electrical meter bypass that allowed Mr. Dispirito to steal more than $275,000 in power from the Long Island Power Authority to power his operation, according to the criminal complaint filed in the Eastern District Court of New York.

(Story continues below)

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Both Mr. Dispirito and Mr. Ford, who investigators say operated under the name “Jimmy the Garbageman,” have been arrested on federal charges of distribution of a controlled substance.

The investigation that led to the pair’s arrest began in October 2009, when members of the Suffolk County Asset Forfeiture Unit — Suffolk Treasury Enhanced Prosecution Program (STEPP) — began looking into a marijuana trafficking ring growing the drugs inside residential homes in the county, according to the complaint.

A confidential source had tipped off police to a trio of homes being used to grow the plants and based on the informant, police believed the ring had been in operation since 2005, according to the complaint.

After nearly three years of scouring through garbage and watching the houses, the investigation yielded fruit.

In April 2012, Federal agents raided three properties in Medford, Middle Island and Manorville, discovering a series of marijuana growing and packaging operations, court documents state.

Inside the locations, agents found 28 pounds of marijuana in various plastic bags, 1,700 marijuana plants, an electric bypass system, and grow lamps, as well as roughly $110,000 in cash hidden in a guitar case in the grower’s home music studio, according to deposition in the case.

A confidential source from those investigations — who admitted to laundering the money from the marijuana sales with the help of his attorney — alerted police to Mr. Dispirito, who ran one of  the grow houses from 2006 to 2008, according to the investigator’s statement.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Police said they found nearly 1,700 marijuana plants worth $3.8 million on this property on Osborn Avenue.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Police said they found nearly 1,700 marijuana plants worth $3.8 million on this property on Osborn Avenue.

Police began tracking Mr. Dispirito, finding a white SUV registered in his named parked at a house on Osborn Avenue in January of this year, an affidavit filed by the investigator states. The investigator in the case later saw a “thin” man exit the house, look around, then go back inside.

The face of that man matched a Department of Motor Vehicles photo of Mr. Dispirito, according to the affidavit.

After seeing snow melting off the roof of Mr. Dispirito’s shed in March, the detective again staked out the alleged grower’s property in September, noting that the shades were drawn on all the house and garage windows. Two sheds had “roof vents to release heat,” the investigator said.

While walking on Osborn Avenue, the investigator smelled the “strong skunky smell” of marijuana blowing south from the house, he said.

Federal agents obtained a subpoena for Long Island Power Authority records of Mr. Dispirito’s power consumption. The subpoena revealed that Mr. Dispirito began paying for power in January 2008, the same time he allegedly left the operations farther west and struck off on his own, according to court documents.

A hidden check of his power consumption later found he was diverting power away from the original electrical meter. The investigator cited in the complaint called this an indicator that Mr. Dispirito was growing a marijuana farm inside.

“Due to the very high electricity consumption of the [grow] lights, air conditioners and other equipment needed to grow marijuana, and its associated high monetary cost, indoor marijuana growers often bypass the electric meter installed by … LIPA with illegal taps,” the detective wrote in his affidavit.

Police next used a thermal imaging camera to reveal several “high heat thermal anomalies” in the house and garage, the affidavit states. The detached garage had both air conditioning and a “oddly placed” roof vent blowing out “extreme heat,” according to the complaint.

On Sept. 25, law enforcement detailed the evidence against Mr. Dispirito in a search warrant request. Six days later, they raided the property.

Court documents show that as police were building the case against Mr. Dispirito, they were also investigating his distributor.

Law enforcement authorities had tapped Mr. Dispirito’s phone records and discovered three phone calls over a one-month period between Mr. Dispirito and Mr. Ford, the Seaford man federal agents suspected was a major customer in the three-home marijuana growing operation busted in 2012, according to an affidavit.

COURT DOCUMENT IMAGE | Police say nearly 1,700 marijuana plants worth roughly $3.8 million were recovered from Mr. Dispirito's home, garage, and sheds.

COURT DOCUMENT IMAGE | Police say nearly 1,700 marijuana plants worth roughly $3.8 million were recovered from Mr. Dispirito’s home, garage, and sheds.

“Jimmy the Garbageman” was no stranger to drugs, court records show. In 1978, he was arrested for first-degree criminal sale of marijuana, sixth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, sixth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and two counts of fourth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, according to the detective’s affidavit in the criminal complaint filed against him Tuesday.

Between 2004 and 2012, Mr. Ford bought roughly $6 million worth of marijuana from the Medford-Middle Island-Manorville drug ring, the complaint states.

In September, police watched Mr. Ford carry two duffle bags into a Ford van parked in front of his house on Tuscala Street. Two men then got into the van and began driving away as Mr. Ford followed behind on a motorcycle, according to the complaint.

Police soon realized Mr. Ford was watching them, so they broke off the surveillance.

After obtaining a search warrant, federal agents raided Mr. Ford’s home as additional law enforcement swarmed Mr. Dispirito’s house.

Inside Mr. Dispirito’s home, police discovered a similar operation to the one they had busted last year.

In addition to the 1,689 plants, 50 grow lights, dry tables and electrical equipment, police found heat sealer, fertilizer and “many other assorted items that are routinely used in the indoor marijuana growing business.”

Agents also discovered trays of drying marijuana, scales and packaging material and stickers identifying the drugs as a product called “Bad Dog,” court documents show.

Those stickers matched hundreds found at Mr. Ford’s home, as well as the “Bad Dog” vanity plate on his car, the detective said. Police also allegedly found five pounds of packaged marijuana inside his home.

Based on interviews with informants and evidence obtained in the operation, investigators believe Mr. Ford has “distributed well over $9 million worth of marijuana from 2003 to date,” according to the complaint.

Both men were arrested and arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Kathleen Tomlinson in Eastern District Court in Central Islip Tuesday.

Mr. Ford was released on $450,000 bail secured using his house and help from his sister, a court source said.

Mr. Dispirito appeared in U.S. District court Friday and was released under house arrest on $500,000 bond, secured using property from his sisters and a friend.

psquire@timesreview.com

Correction: Mr. Dispirito’s age was listed incorrectly in an earlier version of this article.

02/01/13 4:30pm
02/01/2013 4:30 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  Councilman John Dunleavy welcomes owner Rose Nyugen and her boyfriend Dan Tran to Polish Town Friday afternoon.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Councilman John Dunleavy welcomes owner Rose Nyugen and her boyfriend Dan Tran to Polish Town Friday afternoon.

Rose Nyugen has been in the nail care business for more than two decades and Friday afternoon, her new Riverhead pampering business, Eastern Nails and Spa, held its grand opening on Osborn Avenue.

The business will provide clients with an array of pampering services, including manicures, pedicures, facials, massages and makeup. Clients will also have an unique option of permanent make-up in tattoo form.

Ms. Nyugen plans to be a hands-on owner, continuing to do manicures and more for customers alongside her six employees.

Once a nail technician on Old Country Road for more than a decade, Ms. Nyugen opened her own business in Hampton Bays a few years ago, before recently moving back to Riverhead at the suggestion of local diva philanthropist, Dhonna Goodale.

“I told her from a business point of view, I would go back to Riverhead,” Ms. Goodale said. “She has big following here and when you move to another town, people don’t foliow you. And she’s missed. Here we need something a little more special.”

She said having a hair salon and pizzeria as neighbors make it an ideal location.

Neighbors Neat & Complete Hair Cutters and Carlo’s Pizza Oven offered their support at the grand opening event and said they are on board with the idea of cooperating to maximize business at the small Osborn Avenue strip mall.

Carlo’s offered to provide food for those who get hungry while they’re pampered at Eastern Nail and Spa.

Neat & Complete said the spa will provide the perfect haven for the tired mother to get a massage or pedicure while family members get groomed next door.

The two businesses also provided gift certificates and goodies to be raffled off to grand opening attendees.

Ms. Nyugen had tears in her eyes as she thanked Ms. Goodale and the Riverhead Town Board, present at the event, for their help in shepherding the business’s development and opening.

“Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me,” she said.

“Riverhead appreciates you coming here,” said town board member John Dunleavy. “Rose has been here for years, she has a following here. She had to go to Hampton Bays, but we just love to have you back here in Riverhead to start your business here. Riverhead is behind you 110 percent … We’re here for you and we want your business to flourish and grow in the town of Riverhead.”

gvolpe@timesreview.com

11/23/12 9:09am
11/23/2012 9:09 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A new deli is opening at the former Off Main Market site on Osborn Avenue in Riverhead.

The former home of Off Main Market & Kitchen on Osborn Avenue is getting a new tenant.

Miriam Carrera and her sisters will officially open Express Deli & Cafe in that location next Wednesday. It’s been open with limited inventory this week, serving mostly coffee and rolls.

If the Carrera name doesn’t ring a bell, this might: Ms. Carrera is the woman who owns the deli next to Town Hall.

She and her sisters bought Speeds Express Deli next to Town Hall from longtime owner Gary Shiranko about 2 1/2 years ago and are now looking to expand, she said.

The Osborn Avenue location has been vacant since Off Main closed earlier this year after only about a year in business. Before that it was home to Peconic Baking Company, which also closed, and before that, going back many years, the site was home to Goldings Hardware.

Ms. Carrera said they are opening the new site in order to offer more Hispanic food.

“We’re [Hispanic], so we like to make what we know,” said Ms. Carrera, who is originally from Guatemala.

When she took over Speeds, she added some new items to the menu and increased business by 25 percent, she said. But while they thought about adding some Hispanic dishes at Speeds, they were reluctant to change the menu too much because Speeds has many longtime customers.

“We plan to have Spanish food at the new store, but also traditional deli food as well, like we have here,” Ms. Carrera said. “It will be 50-50.”

The new store will serve tacos, burritos and empanadas, as well as the cold cuts, sandwiches and steaks found in traditional delis.

“My mom used to cook a lot,” Ms. Carrera said. “She had a restaurant in Guatemala and we helped there.”

Around 2005, she and her three sisters came to Riverhead, where their father has lived for about 20 years, she said.

They worked at Speeds for several years, and in 2010 formed their own corporation, Sisters Carrera Corp., and bought the deli from Mr. Shiranko, who had owned it for about 10 years.

Being the boss isn’t easy, Ms. Carrera said.

“To be the boss you have to work harder than your employees,” she said. “I’m here 85 hours a week, usually from 4 a.m. to 5 p.m.”

Once Express Deli & Cafe fully opens, she plans to split her time between the two businesses, each of which will have about five employees.

“I’m excited,” she said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

08/06/12 8:05am
08/06/2012 8:05 AM

A Riverhead man was arrested shortly before 10 p.m. Sunday night after the owner of the multi-family dwelling he lives in on Osborn Avenue reported him for stealing a pocketbook and cash, Riverhead Town Police said.

Cristobal Cruz, 44, was later found hiding in the rear of the residence by a responding K9 unit. He was in possession of the missing items when he was located, police said.

Mr. Cruz was charged with second-degree burglary and held overnight for a Monday morning arraignment.