12/02/13 8:33am
12/02/2013 8:33 AM
COURTESY SCPD | Police said three men stole nearly $1,900 in merchandise from Target in November.

COURTESY SCPD | Police said three men stole nearly $1,900 in merchandise from Target in November.

Police said three men stole nearly $1,900 in tooth whitening products from Target early last month and are asking the public’s help in identifying and tracking the suspects down.

According to Suffolk County Police, the men entered the Route 58 box store on Thursday, Nov. 7 and reportedly stole “all the Crest Whitening products on display” between 1 and 1:25 p.m. Authorities estimated the value of the products at $1,869.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers are offering a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

COURTESY SCPD | Police said three men stole nearly $1,900 in merchandise from Target in November.

COURTESY SCPD | Police said three men stole nearly $1,900 in merchandise from Target in November.

11/17/13 2:30pm
DUI, Brookhaven National Laboratory, bicyclist, Calverton

WILLIAM SLATTON after the 2012 arrest

The attorney for the man arrested last year for fatally striking a bicyclist along Route 25 in Calverton as he allegedly drove under the influence of drugs with a suspended license and his four young children in the car expects the charges against his client will soon be dropped.

But now William Slatton is once again in trouble with the law. The 31-year-old Farmingville man was arrested Wednesday on a fourth-degree grand larceny charge, a class E felony,  for using a credit card stolen from a Middle Island home, Suffolk County police said. A source familiar with the case said Mr. Slatton stole the card from the home of the mother of his kids, while he was visiting them last weekend.

STEVEN KANE

STEVEN KANE

Mr. Slatton made headlines last year following the Nov. 1 crash which killed avid bicyclist Steven Kane, 57, of Brightwaters, the manager of safety engineering at Brookhaven National Laboratory who was pronounced dead at the scene despite the efforts of several passing motorists to save him.

Mr. Slatton is facing charges of driving while ability impaired by drugs, third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation, and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child following his arrest last year. His attorney, Joseph Cozzo of Central Islip, said he anticipates charges in that case will be dismissed since Mr. Slatton was under the influence of methadone at the time of the crash, a drug he was using as part of his court-ordered treatment for heroin addiction.

“He was on methadone and he was getting it from a Suffolk County clinic,” Mr. Cozzo said Sunday. “I can’t speak for the District Attorney’s office, but I do anticipate charges being dismissed.”

Mr. Slatton is due back in Riverhead Town Justice Court Dec. 11 in relation to the crash, Mr. Cozzo said.  He has been free on bail since late last November after his bail was reduced from $50,000 to $1,000, which Mr. Cozzo previously told the News-Review was lowered so he could spend the holidays with his family.

Even if the crash charges are dismissed, Mr. Slatton could still face jail time for violating the terms of probation in relation to the 2007 felony attempted drug possession conviction that led to his suspended license. He’s due back in court Dec. 13 on the probation violation, online court records show.

“With this new arrest, he’s going to be in more trouble now,” said Mr. Cozzo, who is not representing Mr. Slatton in connection with his latest arrest.

The District Attorney’s office could not be reached for comment Sunday.

The source who alerted the News-Review to Mr. Slatton’s latest arrest said the father of four recently relapsed in his drug treatment and no longer lives with his children and their mother.

“He has stolen from family more times than I choose to remember and this time he went too far,” the source said.

Mr. Slatton is being held at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility on $7,500 cash bail or $15,000 bond, and is due back in district court Tuesday, jail officials said.

gparpan@timesreview.com

11/05/13 1:52pm
11/05/2013 1:52 PM
COURTESY SCPD | Police say this man robbed a Calverton gas station.

COURTESY SCPD | Police say this man robbed a Calverton gas station.

Suffolk County Police said on Tuesday that they are investigating a recent gas station robbery in Calverton as one which was carried out as part of a larger pattern, and are asking for the public’s help in tracking down the man they say is responsible for all of them.

The Hess gas station on Edwards Avenue – barely in the jurisdiction of the SCPD – was robbed last Wednesday night, after a clerk said that a man pulled a handgun on him, demanding cash from the register about 7:45 p.m.

Police said that over the past two weeks, similar robberies have occurred at seven different establishments, at gas stations in Eastport, Mastic, North Babylon, St. James, Dix Hills and Bohemia, as well as Jamba Juice in Stony Brook. No one was injured during any of the robberies.

The suspect is described as a white male, about 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-2 with a tall to medium build. Police said he usually wears a dark-colored or gray hooded sweatshirt.

According to police, the man has frequently approached the clerk to purchase an item and when the cash register opened, pulled a gun and demanded cash.

Mohammed Kahn, the clerk at the Calverton Hess, told the News-Review last week that the robber walked straight up to the register and demanded cash, first giving him the impression that the act was a trick.

“I was looking to him like he was joking,” Mr. Kahn said at the time.

Anyone with information about the incidents is asked to call Suffolk County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. Any information that leads to an arrest could result in a reward of up to $5,000.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | This Hess station on Edwards Avenue was robbed at gunpoint Wednesday night, authorities said. The robber remains at large.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | The Hess station on Edwards Avenue that was robbed at gunpoint Wednesday night, police said. The robber remains at large.

10/31/13 1:18am
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | This Hess station on Edwards Avenue was robbed at gunpoint Wednesday night, authorities said. The robber remains at large.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | The Hess station on Edwards Avenue that was robbed at gunpoint Wednesday night, police said. The robber remains at large.

It had been a quiet night for Hess gas station clerk Mohammed Kahn.

Unlike during the busy summer months, there were no customers inside the station’s market on Edwards Avenue near the Long Island Expressway on-ramp Wednesday.

About 7:45 p.m., Mr. Kahn said a customer — a man in his 30s wearing a black hat and black clothing — walked in through the doors and up to the counter. The man told Mr. Kahn to give him money from the register.

The cashier, the only employee working at the time, thought it was a prank.

“I was looking to him like he was joking,” Mr. Kahn told the News-Review.

That’s when the man pulled out a handgun and pointed it at the clerk, demanding the cash.

Mr. Kahn quickly realized the man wasn’t kidding. Mr. Kahn said he gave the robber cash from the register and the man ran away from the station.

No one was injured in the robbery.

Riverhead Town police responded to Mr. Kahn’s call to 911 moments later, and searched the scene for the robber.

“They came right away,” Mr. Kahn said. “They’re very fast.”

Suffolk County police reached the gas station soon after Riverhead cops and took over the investigation. The Hess station sits about a quarter-mile into the Suffolk County police’s jurisdiction.

Town police described the suspect as a white male standing about 6-feet-tall and wearing dark clothing. He was last seen running north along Edwards Avenue and remains at large.

Suffolk County Police Department detectives are actively investigating the robbery, county police said.

Mr. Kahn said Suffolk County sheriffs often stop by the mart by while patrolling the area, but no police were nearby when the robbery occurred.

“[The robber] was lucky,” he said.

Still, he’s confident the robber will be caught; the suspect was caught on surveillance footage, Mr. Kahn said.

Mr. Kahn, better known to his customers as Assad, has been working at the Hess station for 12 years and said he had never been robbed before.

But in recent years, he said, the neighborhood around the station has been changed by more drugs on the street.

“I see girls and boys come by, they look like they came from good homes,” Mr. Kahn said. “There’s a lot of drugs.”

psquire@timesreview.com

10/22/13 3:06pm
10/22/2013 3:06 PM

A 19-year-old Flanders man was arrested on a county warrant last week on charges related to the robbing of two people in Medford and another person in Central Islip in three separate incidents in September, county police said.

Alberto Rosario was arrested in Bay Shore and charged with first-degree robbery, police said. He’s accused of using a handgun to rob the three victims on Sept. 20, police said.

According to county police, Mr. Rosario displayed a handgun and stole a leather backpack from a victim on Grey Avenue in Medford, police said. Shortly after, a victim was robbed of cash on West Lane in Medford, and following that Mr. Rosario stole a cellphone and a backpack from a victim on Hawthorne Avenue in Central Islip.

Mr. Rosario was arrested last Monday and is expected to appear in 1st District Court in Central Islip on Oct. 31., records show.

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)

Click right side of column below to advance timeline ↘

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.

08/22/13 8:25am
08/22/2013 8:25 AM

Thief_RHPolice are offering a cash reward for information leading to the arrest of a man who used someone else’s debit card at a string of Riverhead stores in April.

Two surveillance images were released by police, both showing the alleged identity theft as a thinly built, light-skinned black or Hispanic man who at the time was wearing a white T-shirt, sunglasses, blue jeans and shoes.

The man made “several purchases” at Target, Walgreen’s and KMart, all on Route 58, on April 24.

Anyone with information is being asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 220-TIPS. Police are offering up to $5,000 in cash for any information that leads to an arrest.

All calls will be kept confidential.

07/25/13 2:30pm
07/25/2013 2:30 PM
PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Mourners clung to one another for support during a vigil in Riverhead after Demitri Hampton was killed in January.

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Mourners clung to one another for support during a vigil in Riverhead after Demitri Hampton was killed in January.

Jamal Davis says it seems like every day on the news he hears about someone getting hurt.

“There’s always something happening to somebody else,” he said. “So much happens every day. Someone killed in Brentwood, somebody killed somewhere else.”

He thinks about his brother, Demitri Hampton, the easygoing Suffolk County Community College student and Riverhead High School graduate, a former Blue Waves basketball player and beloved role model to his peers.

He said he tries not to think about the early January morning when two masked men stormed into his cousin’s house and shot and killed Mr. Hampton as he tried to fight them off.

Nearly six months later, Mr. Hampton’s murder has not been solved.

“It’s hard to grasp,” Mr. Davis said. “Demitri’s not the only person dying out there, but how do they find out who did it?”

Mr. Hampton was killed about 3 a.m. Jan. 27, when the two intruders burst through the front door of Mr. Hampton’s cousin’s house on Priscilla Avenue in Flanders.

[RELATED: Previous coverage of Demitri Hampton]

His cousin was sleeping inside, as was Mr. Hampton’s girlfriend.

Mr. Hampton was downstairs playing video games at the time of the break-in and rushed upstairs to confront the intruders, family members said. He fought with one of the men in the kitchen but was shot in the chest during the struggle.

The men quickly fled the scene and Mr. Hampton was rushed to the hospital, where he died from his injuries.

Mr. Hampton’s mother, Juanita Trent, said her family has begun “a phase of healing” since her son’s death.

“We don’t openly speak about it any more,” she said. “When we speak, we speak of the good times. We don’t speak of that night.”

Suffolk County police have declined to be interviewed about the case but said the investigation to find Mr. Hampton’s killers is active. They declined to provide further updates.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Demitri Hampon appeared on the cover of a Suffolk County Community College campus magazine in 2012.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Demitri Hampon appeared on the cover of a Suffolk County Community College campus magazine in 2012.

Ms. Trent said the detectives working the case have kept in touch with the family since the shooting, most recently at a fundraiser in May for a scholarship in Mr. Hampton’s honor.

“I’m not going to lie, I’m praying for justice,” Ms. Trent said. “I just want this closure for so many people, not just myself. For my children, for his friends. Nothing’s going to bring him back, but I still grieve.”

She said she prays to God to give the detectives the strength to catch her son’s killers.

“I want to keep praying for them to please get these people off the streets so no one else gets hurt,” she said. “That gun is still out there.”

Mr. Davis said he understands that the detectives are in a difficult situation.

“There’s only one homicide unit in Suffolk County,” Mr. Davis said. “It’s tough, I gotta put myself in their shoes.”

Hundreds rallied to support Mr. Hampton’s family after the murder, with vigils and ceremonies held in the ensuing weeks honoring the young man.

Theresa Drozd, a founder of the Riverhead schools’ anti-gang group Council for Unity, of which Mr. Hampton was a member, said the young man was a “super kid.”

“He had a heart of gold,” she said. “Always had a smile for somebody.”

She said it’s frustrating to know that Mr. Hampton’s killers have not been caught.

“It’s almost like you need closure,” she said. “And until you bring that person in, or those people in, and bring them to justice, you’re not going to get closure.”

More than 200 people crowded into Robert Ludlam Park in May to donate money for the DQH Memorial Scholarship that Mr. Hampton’s family established in his name.

Last month, the family was able to hand out the first of what they hope will be an annual award.

Two $500 scholarships were given to Nicole Mauro and Heather Zilnicki, Riverhead High School graduates who will be attending Suffolk County Community College in the fall.

“The scholarship ended up working out good,” Mr. Davis said. “I got to talk a little bit about Demitri and what a response we’ve gotten in our first year.”

Mr. Hampton’s mother used the scholarship as a project to occupy herself in the months following the shooting, Mr. Davis said. But Ms. Trent said the fundraiser also opened up old wounds, as she had to tell her son’s story over and over.

“The hardest part of that scholarship was going out, going to vendors and reliving everything,” she said.

With the fundraiser complete, Ms. Trent has focused her attention on renewing her wedding vows next month, a celebration they had planned before Mr. Hampton’s death.

Ms. Trent said she’ll have a purple ribbon at the ceremony, as a way to show Mr. Hampton is still with the family.

“It’s a celebration of life,” she said.

Since the shooting, Mr. Hampton’s cousin has moved back into the house where the home invasion occurred, Ms. Trent said.

She said she doesn’t fear staying in her house alone; God is protecting her, she said.

“You don’t walk in fear; that’s part of the Devil’s path,” she said. “I refuse to live my life that way.”

Still, Ms. Trent said she’s “missing a big chunk” of her family with Demitri’s death.

“I’m not the same person I was,” she said. “I can’t go back to that same person I was.”

Despite the fact that no arrests have been made in the case, Mr. Davis remains hopeful his brother’s killers will be found soon.

“Six months, you know?” he said. “It’s not too long yet.”

psquire@timesreview.com