Two Flanders men were among 24 people arrested in connection with “a massive drug ring” that operated on or near the Shinnecock Reservation, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney.
The drug distribution ring was responsible for selling more than $1 million worth of heroin cut with fentanyl each year in addition to cocaine, Oxycodone pills and marijuana. Authorities said the ring is linked to five fatal heroin overdoses.
An investigation began last December when officials said an uptick in criminal activity was reported on the Shinnecock Reservation, including an increase in firearm violence, narcotics possession and sales and fatal overdoses both on and near the reservation.
Kenneth Rivero, 34, of Flanders allegedly supplied narcotics to Justin Eleazer, 29, of Southampton and Ryan Kellis, 32, of Southampton, who conspired to distribute heroin and cocaine to members of the Shinnecock Reservation and other residents of the Southampton area, according to the DA.
Mr. Rivero faces three felony charges: second-degree conspiracy, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and first-degree criminal possession of marijuana.
Trevor Hardin, 29, of Flanders was also arrested and also faces three felonies: second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and first-degree criminal possession of marijuana.
Mr. Rivero faces up to 25 years in prison for the top charge and Mr. Hardin faces up to 15 years.
“For far too long, criminals have attempted to evade law enforcement and hide on the Shinnecock Reservation, terrorizing the law-abiding citizens of the Shinnecock Nation by selling drugs and committing various acts of violence, but that ends today,” District Attorney Timothy Sini said. “This was a massive drug ring operating primarily out of the reservation, selling more than $1 million worth of heroin cut with fentanyl each year.”
The investigation revealed William Bess III, 35, of Southampton allegedly purchased large quantities of heroin and cocaine to resell to people on the reservation. Johnnie Booker, 35, of Bellport was allegedly his supplier of cocaine, the DA said.
Police executed search warrants at five locations Thursday, resulting in the seizure of approximately 120 grams of heroin and fentanyl, 90 grams of cocaine and more than 10 pounds of marijuana. Authorities also recovered an assault weapon, numerous shotguns and rifles and drug paraphernalia, such as scales, grinders and cutting agents.
Southampton Town police chief Steven Skrynecki said the investigation was a “major step to mitigate the flow of dangerous and potentially deadly drugs to members of the Shinnecock Reservation and neighboring communities with the Town of Southampton.”
Mr. Sini said the investigation remains ongoing and prosecutors will seek a top charge of operating as a major trafficker for several of the defendants. That charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison. Two additional defendants are in custody on unrelated charges and will be charged in connection to the alleged drug ring, the DA said.
The investigation, which featured the East End Drug Task Force, involved the use of routine surveillance, electronic surveillance and court-authorized eavesdropping, the DA said.
The East End Drug Task Force includes members of each department on the East End, as well as the District Attorney’s Office, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office and others.
The full list of defendants charged is:
Ryan Aldrich, 27, of East Hampton
William Bess III, 35, of Southampton
Johnnie Booker, 45, of Bellport
Max Byrne, 30, of Southampton
Benjamin Diaz, 47, of the Bronx
Joseph Dowling, 27, of Sag Harbor
Justin Eleazer, 29, of Southampton
Brandon Gardner, 33, of Southampton
Edward Gumbs, 57, of Southampton
Thomas Halek, 49, of Hampton Bays
Trevor Hardin, 29, of Flanders
Ryan Kellis, 32, of Southampton
Matthew Manzella, 30, of Hampton Bays
Walter Mims, 33, of Southampton
Derrick Quinn, 49, of Southampton
Valton Reddick, 51, of Southampton
Kenneth Rivero, 34, of Flanders
Nichole Rosado, 29, of Southampton
RIchard Short, 50, of Southampton
Nicholas Spiegel, 32, of Hampton Bays
Frank Taylor, 59, of Southampton
John Tracey, 25, of East Hampton