Update: Driver in drug bust had two prior felon convictions

Arrested Tuesday afternoon were (from left): Justin Benkov, Bryant Smith and Michael Barry. (Credit: Riverhead police)
Arrested Tuesday afternoon were (from left): Justin Benkov, Bryant Smith and Michael Barry. (Credit: Riverhead police)

Three men tried to flee police as the East End Drug Task Force descended on a Riverhead home to execute a search warrant Tuesday afternoon, Riverhead Town police said. 

Two men were in a parked car when they spotted officers approaching the home at 137 Merritts Pond Road at 5:16 p.m., police said. Officers said that the police department had received numerous complaints about possible drug activity at the home.

According to the criminal complaint in the case, the driver, 29-year-old Justin Benkov of Riverhead, attempted to back up in the direction of the officers before calling off the escape attempt.

Once apprehended, Mr. Benkov was found in possession of cocaine, marijuana, scales and 13 strips of Suboxone — used to treat opiate addiction — police said. He was charged with reckless endangerment on top of the various drug charges, which include four counts of criminally using drug paraphernalia, police said.

Mr. Benkov, who was previously convicted on two felony weapon and drug charges, pleaded not guilty in Riverhead Town Justice Court Wednesday.

Mr. Benkov, who appeared before the judge in a wheelchair , is paralyzed from gun shot wounds he sustained attempting to burglarize an East Islip house in 2011, according to a previous Riverhead News-Review article.

He is currently being held without bail and is likely to be indicted in county criminal court, a legal aide said following the arraignment.

The two passengers in the car, 28-year-old Michael Barry of Riverhead and Bryant Smith, 36, of Rocky Point, were charged with criminal possession of marijuana, police said.

Mr. Barry also entered a not guilty plea Wednesday.

In October, Mr. Barry pleaded guilty in county court to criminal sale of a controlled substance and is awaiting sentencing.

Riverhead Town Justice Court judge Richard Ehlers set bail at $2,500.

Mr. Smith was released on $500 bail. He is due back in court Monday.

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