BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota speaks at a press conference Friday at the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Hampton Bays.
The Suffolk County East End DWI Task Force plans to expand its mission to cover Boating While Intoxicated crimes next summer, after a successful inaugural summer of DWI checkpoints on the East End.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota announced the effort at a press conference at the U.S. Coast Guard station in Hampton Bays Friday afternoon.
“We just the other day decided the time had come when we had to do this,” said Mr. Spota, who said he had just recently been involved in the indictment of a man who killed a father of two when he was in a waterway channel going the wrong way at an excessive rate of speed. “I will deputize all the officers so they can cross local boundaries.”
Mr. Spota said the Coast Guard will also play a major role in the effort.
“All agencies will participate, even those that don’t have a boat,” he said. “We have to be as aggressive as we are on the land.”
Mr. Spota said the D.A.’s office will use the proceeds from assets seized from criminals to fund overtime expenses for local departments, as well as state grant money and fees that Suffolk County receives from people who are convicted of DWI.
“The residents of the East End will not be paying a nickel for this effort,” he said.
Mr. Spota added that the DWI Task Force checkpoints, which began Memorial Day Weekend throughout the East End and have netted numerous arrests each weekend, will continue on designated weekends through the end of this year.
Mr. Spota said he had personally spent 11 years as a homicide prosecutor consoling families who couldn’t understand how a drunk driver had ruined their family’s life.
He also thanked representatives from the East End police departments who participated in the effort, many of whom were at the press conference.
“The very worst part of policing is bearing the burden of knocking on that door to bear that terrible news,” he said.
“They say success has many fathers but failure is an orphan,” he said. “We have a lot of proud fathers here. As district attorney, I’m deeply grateful for their enthusiasm and cooperation.”
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A collection of the drugs, cash, and tools seized by the East End Drug Task Force during a seven-month investigation.
A “multi-million dollar” cocaine-distribution ring, ferrying four kilos of cocaine a week using hidden compartments in vehicles traveling from New York City to Riverhead, has been busted by the East End Drug Task Force, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said.
The investigation, which began last November and lasted until June, revealed that Robert Love, 58, of Riverhead and Miguel Matos, 45, of the Bronx were “ringleaders” of the operation, one of the largest in East End history, officials said.
Mr. Matos’ son-in-law, Radames “Ray” Melendez, 22, also of the Bronx, allegedly served as a courier in the ring, transporting drugs from New York to Mr. Love in Riverhead, before returning to New York City to be paid, according to authorities.
Mr. Melendez and Mr. Matos would meet Mr. Love in Riverhead or in western Suffolk County to transfer the drugs, officials said.
Mr. Love received about a kilo of cocaine, worth about $37,000, every other day, officials said; he would then break the kilos into gram-sized chunks and sell them in Greenport, Riverhead, Flanders and Southampton for $50 and $60 a gram.
“That amount of cocaine flowing into the East End of Suffolk County … is a tremendous amount,” Mr. Spota said, adding that he believes hundreds received cocaine through the ring’s distribution.
Mr. Matos was a “major player” in the drug trafficking world, Mr. Spota said. When police executed the search warrant on his apartment, they found a sophisticated operation featuring security cameras — some disguised as smoke alarms — watching the packaging areas and hallways to ensure Mr. Matos’ accomplices didn’t steal drugs, officials said.
Detectives retrieved thousands in cash, drugs and tools used to compress the cocaine into kilos for sale, Mr. Spota added.
East End Drug Task Force detectives seized 13 cars and discovered hidden traps used to hide powdered cocaine in three of them, officials said.
The electronic traps were opened by pressing buttons, such as the hazard light, air conditioning or windshield wiper buttons, in a specific sequence, Mr. Spota said.
The men were arrested June 13 by Riverhead Town police and were held in custody awaiting grand jury indictment, which was handed up July 26, according to court records.
Mr. Love was arrested at his home in Riverhead; he allegedly tried to flee police and threw a kilo of cocaine over a fence during the arrest.
In 2003, officials said, Mr. Love was arrested for the sale and possession of cocaine and was sentenced to 10 years in state prison. He was released in December 2009 and is currently on parole.
“He convinced the parole board that he had seen the light, that he was rehabilitated, and that light, as you can see … has quickly faded,” Mr. Spota said.
The District Attorney said Mr. Matos had no prior arrests and he was unsure specifically where he was getting his drugs from. He did say a “significant amount” of money was being transferred to the Dominican Republic as part of the cocaine ring
Mr. Love and Mr. Matos are being charged under the state’s three-year-old “kingpin statute,” which carries heavier sentences for major distributors of illegal drugs.
The two men face charges of operating as a major trafficker as a profiteer from sale, operating as a major trafficker as a profiteer from possession, first-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, all class A1 felonies that carry top sentences of life imprisonment. They also face a charge of second-degree conspiracy, a class B felony.
Mr. Matos was additionally charged with operating as a major trafficker as director of a controlled substance operation, a class A1 felony.
Mr. Melendez is facing charges of first-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and first-degree conspiracy.
The three men were scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday, but the date was postponed when one of the defendants requested a new lawyer. Mr. Matos and Mr. Melendez will be arraigned Aug. 3, while Mr. Love will be arraigned Aug. 8.
The East End Drug Task Force was formed in 1988 and it uses undercover officers from surrounding town and village police departments, along with officers from the state, county and sheriff’s departments, to investigate narcotics on the East End.
Mr. Spota thanked local police departments, like Riverhead, Southold and Southampton, for lending officers to assist in the investigation.
“I’m very, very proud of the work this task force has done,” he said. “They have done an admirable job … and I am very, very thankful to all of the departments who contribute manpower to the East End Drug Task Force.”
Mr. Spota added that he expects about “a dozen or more” arrests to be made in connection with the ring.
A drug-smuggling ring, which allegedly ferried up to three kilos of cocaine a week using hidden compartments in vehicles traveling from New York City to Riverhead, has been busted by the East End Drug Task Force, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.
Robert Love, 58, of Riverhead and Miguel Matos, 45, of the Bronx were the “ringleaders” of the operation, said District Attorney spokesman Robert Clifford.
Mr. Matos’ son-in-law, Radames “Ray” Melendez, 22, also of the Bronx, allegedly served as the courier in the ring and ferried drugs from New York in to Mr. Love in Riverhead before returning to New York City to be paid, according to the statement.
During an East End Drugs Task Force investigation which began last November, detectives seized 13 cars and discovered hidden traps used to hide powdered cocaine in three of the vehicles, officials said. The electronic traps were opened by pressing hazard light, air conditioning, or windshield wiper buttons in a sequence, according to the statement.
The three defendants will be arraigned in Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverside Tuesday.
The men were arrested on June 13 by Riverhead Town Police and held in custody awaiting a Grand Jury indictment, which was handed up on July 26, according to court records.
Mr. Love and Mr. Matos are facing charges of second-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, first-degree conspiracy, and operating a drug ring, all of which are felonies, which can carry top sentences of life in jail, or class B felonies, which carry top sentences of up to 25 years in jail.
Mr. Melendez is facing charges of first-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and first-degree conspiracy, and also could face life in jail.
More details, including photos of the car’s secret compartments and cocaine and packaging material seized by the East End Drugs Task Force will be revealed at a press conference hosted by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota Tuesday morning.
The East End Drug Task Force was formed in 1988 and uses undercover officers from surrounding town and village police departments, along with officers from the state, county, and sheriff departments, to investigate narcotics on the East End.
The former American Red Cross employee who was arrested this week for allegedly embezzling nearly $275,000 from the nonprofit organization was convicted of a similar crime in Florida more than 20 years ago, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.
Deborah Leggio, 47, a former director of the Suffolk chapter of the American Red Cross in Yaphank, was convicted of Grand Theft in Clayton County Florida in 1990, the DA’s office confirmed. Ms. Leggio, who was a resident of Orange Park, Fla. at the time, was accused of depositing employers checks into her personal account, the DA’s office said.
A DA spokesperson said court records they obtained did not disclose the name of the employer.
A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Corrections said Friday that while Ms. Leggio’s name is in their computer database, no information about her previous conviction was available.
Ms. Leggio currently stands accused of using the Red Cross chapter’s debit card, which was in her name, to make ATM cash withdrawals, “sometimes as often as every couple of days” from April 2005 to November 2009, District Attorney Thomas Spota said.
The cash withdrawals amounted to $274,301 during that time, officials charged.
Ms. Leggio, who currently lives in Tracy, Calif but previously lived in Coram, was indicted by a grand jury and a warrant was issued, which resulted in her surrender to Suffolk County authorities, officials said.
She pleaded not guilty Tuesday to grand larceny charges before Judge Gary Weber in Suffolk Criminal Court and is being held on $17,500 cash or $35,000 bond.
Prosecutors said Ms. Leggio began working for the Red Cross on Horse Block Road in Yaphank in 2002.
She left for California last year, where she was working as financial director of Renaissance Enterpreneurship Center.
Red Cross spokesperson Craig Cooper declined comment on Ms. Leggio’s prior arrest and the non-profit’s pre-employment screening process.
The Red Cross initially reported irregularities in their financial paperwork to the district attorney’s office last year. They said they have cooperated with the DA’s investigation ever since.
“[We have worked] closely with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office on this case and we are pleased to see it progressing through the proper legal channels,” a Red Cross press release states.
The lawyer for a Pulaski Street School janitor arrested in connection with an alleged three-man cocaine ring in Riverhead is saying his 41-year-old client was only a bit player in the alleged operation.
“It seems to me that [Troy Trent] was a really low person on the totem pole,” said the attorney, Fred Fisher of Southampton. “He is not what I would call a principal in this alleged drug scheme.”
He said his client, who prosecutors say went by the street name “Troy-T,” is only accused of selling half an ounce of cocaine.
Mr. Trent was arraigned last Wednesday in Suffolk Criminal Court on a second-degree conspiracy charge and was released on $25,000 bail. He was arrested Feb. 4 after an East End Drug Task Force investigation that began in January 2010 and also resulted in the arrests of Joseph “Slick” Gilliam and Ramon “Pamp” Overton.
Prosecutors said Mr. Trent and Mr. Gilliam would supply powdered and crack cocaine to Mr. Overton, whom they described as a street-level dealer. All three men are from Riverhead.
Mr. Trent has since been barred from all Riverhead School District grounds, school officials said, though he has not been fired.
The investigation did not reveal evidence Mr. Trent sold drugs to students, prosecutors said.
During the investigation, Mr. Overton, 41, allegedly sold crack to an undercover cop four times between January and December 2010, according to a grand jury indictment. A search warrant was executed at Mr. Overton’s Franklin Street home earlier this month, where task force detectives found three 12-gauge pump-action shotguns and a rifle.
Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota explained last week that Mr. Overton cannot legally own firearms due to a previous felony conviction.
Detectives also found two ounces of cocaine, a small quantity of crack and scales, officials said.
Mr. Overton pleaded not guilty last Wednesday to second-degree conspiracy, four counts of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, six counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, four counts of fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and one count of second-degree criminal use of drug paraphernalia. He was released on $200,000 bond.
Mr. Trent, 41, pleaded not guilty to his conspiracy charge. Mr. Gilliam, 38, also pleaded not guilty to a second-degree conspiracy charge and was being held on $10,000 cash bail or $25,000 bond. Mr. Gilliam’s attorney, Susan Menu of Riverhead, declined to comment Monday, explaining that she had not yet looked over the grand jury indictment.
“Evidence gathered during the investigation established defendants Trent and Gilliam supplied cocaine to Overton who, as the indictment details, was an active street-level crack dealer in Riverhead,” Mr. Spota, whose office oversees the task force, said in a statement. “Surveillance and other evidence established Overton sold crack at locations on Segal Avenue and in public parking lots on Route 58.”
Mr. Spota did not specify in which parking lots on the commercial thoroughfare alleged drug deals took place.
The arrests were not related to the 23 drug and gang related arrests in the Riverhead area announced earlier this month, a spokesman for Mr. Spota said.