A collaboration between police forces has broken up a massive heroin ring that ferried a “pure, strong and very sought-after” brand of the drug to Riverhead from East Harlem, authorities said.
Nine men, including four from Riverhead and one from Calverton, were arrested for their roles in the ring after an investigation by the East End Drug Task Force that lasted over a year, District Attorney Thomas Spota said.
Officials said dealers involved in the ring — six in all — sold the drugs mostly along Route 58, in parking lots at Tanger Outlets, Home Depot and the Riverhead Department of Motor Vehicles; at gas stations; and at the McDonald’s on Route 24 in Riverside.
Officials said they seized 2,000 packets of the drugs during a round of arrests over the past few months, and while prosecutors couldn’t say how much of the drug was sold by the ring, Mr. Spota said it was a “very lucrative” scheme.
After being sold in Riverhead, authorities said, the heroin made its way across the county, as buyers from Rocky Point and Miller Place to Southold, Greenport and Southampton came into Riverhead to buy the drugs.
The heroin this ring was selling was packaged in .03 gram increments with stickers labeled “Hollywood” and sold at up to $20 per packet, double the normal cost of heroin, Mr. Spota said. The drug was marketed as a “premium” quality brand and was directly responsible for at least six overdoses across the East End because of its high potency.
“There is no Hollywood ending to this particular case,” Mr. Spota said. “For the dealers, prison awaits them. For the addicts, if they’re lucky, years of drug rehabilitation. No glitz, no glamour, certainly no fame.”
The following Riverhead residents collectively face nearly 30 felony drug and conspiracy charges as dealers in the ring: Robert Baker, 41; Jerome Trent, 58; Leon Langhorne, 38; and Leroy Langhorne, 41. Two other men, Farrow Sims, 42, of Calverton, and Joseph Thomas, 41, of Mastic, also face 10 felonies.
Three East Harlem men, Jose Calvente, Jose Morales and Carlos Ramos, were also arrested as the suppliers of the heroin. The local dealers would go into New York City to pick up the drugs, Mr. Spota said.
All nine men have extensive histories of felony convictions, mostly drug-related, authorities said.
“As soon as they get out of jail, they’re right back in business again,” Mr. Spota said. “Every single one of them knows nothing but selling drugs. Quite frankly, we shouldn’t stand for it and we won’t stand for it.”
They face up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the top counts in the indictment, Mr. Spota said. Prosecutors will seek maximum sentencing if the men are convicted.
Police first learned of the “Hollywood” ring two years ago and, through confidential informants, undercover agents and wiretaps, were able to track down the participants, authorities said. Among the assets seized during a series of arrests from last fall until this month were a shotgun and rifle, thousands in cash and drugs, cellphones and vehicles, including a new Infiniti for which Leon Langhorne reportedly paid cash just four days before his arrest.
Mr. Spota said the relative affluence of Suffolk County is attracting heroin dealers, who can peddle the drug to a willing clientele with money.
The East End Drug Task Force, a collaboration among East End town departments and county and state police, will continue to target dealers in the area, he said.
Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley and Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said the bust would not have been possible without the task force members working together.
“Our department’s not big enough to have our own narcotics division, so we get the best bang for our buck joining forces on a task force like this,” Chief Flatley said.
“We have a town view, but Spota has an East End view,” Chief Hegermiller added.
Still, Mr. Spota said the epidemic of heroin will likely continue as other dealers step in to fill the gap left by the now disbanded “Hollywood” gang. Investigators will remain on the lookout for other drug rings, though law enforcement sources said no additional arrests are coming in this case.
“You hope it’ll take a notch out of the availability, but somebody’s going to be able to fill that void,” Chief Flatley said. “But you have to make arrests like this, hits like this, to have any sort of impact.”