OSWEGO COUNTY, NY – A year-long investigation into a cocaine distribution network culminated Thursday with 24 arrests in Rochester, Fulton and Oswego. Four others were being actively sought in connection with the investigation.
|From left are Robin Baker, Fulton Police Chief Orlo Green, Fulton Mayor Ronald Woodward and Fulton Deputy Chief Tom Abelgore.|
Robin Baker, the executive deputy attorney general for criminal justice, explained that the Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) headed the multi-agency investigation, which was regarded as “Operation Fultron.” Nearly one pound of cocaine with a street value of approximately $35,000, was seized during the investigation, Baker said.
At the top of the distribution ring, Baker said Jerome Brooks, 25, of Rochester, allegedly managed the drug network that distributed crack and powder cocaine from June 2007 through March of this year.
Through a variety of means, such as wiretaps and electronic surveillance, investigators discovered that Brooks allegedly sold cocaine himself. More often, however, Baker said he would have his workers — Nicholas “Vega” Garcia, 19, and Sharmar Cruz, 25, both of Rochester — deal directly to customers.
In March, police seized more than eight ounces of cocaine from Brooks in Oswego County. As a result, Brooks stepped out of the sales end of the ring and Garcia stepped in. Garcia brought in additional workers to transport and sell the drugs to resellers in Oswego and Fulton, Baker said.
The group of alleged workers included 17-year-old Christopher Garcia, 19-year-old John “Wes” Goodman, 21-year-old Joshua Coppolla and 20-year-old Justin Mendez, all of Rochester; and 18-year-old Joelle Denaro of Spencerport.
More cocaine was seized from the group of workers April 18, April 29 and May 1 while they were transporting the drugs to Oswego County. Those accused of reselling the cocaine in Oswego County included:
|From left are Fulton Deputy Chief Tom Abelgore, James Mindell, and Oswego Police Chief Michael Dehm.|
- Robert F. Carnegie Jr., 49, of South First Street, Fulton
- Donald Currier, 35, of Chestnut Street, Fulton
- Kathy I. Davis, 44, of East Sixth Street, Oswego
- Justin Fellows, 25, of East 10th Street, Fulton
- Douglas F. Fischel, 50, of Manhattan Avenue, Fulton
- Jack R. Hammond Jr., 49, of Syracuse Avenue, Oswego
- Lacy R. Henderson, 36, of East Seventh Street, Oswego
- Mark E. Holmes, 48, of East Fourth Street, Oswego
- Delbert J. Jacques Jr., 44, of East Fourth Street, Oswego
- Pamela L. Lavere, 34, of Chestnut Street, Oswego
- Lee Loughrey, 48, of East Sixth Street, Oswego
- Juan Perez, 37, of Lawrence Avenue, Oswego
- Kareen A. Pullen, 43, of Ontario Street, Oswego
- Rebecca Rando, 43, of South West Eighth Street, Oswego
- Tricia Sloppy, 34, of Syracuse Avenue, Oswego
- Sasha Smith, 20, of Hooker Street, Rochester
The investigation wrapped up May 1. Four others were being sought Thursday morning. Baker said police knew the location of one of those suspects.
All of the defendants arrested were charged with a felony count of second-degree conspiracy, which Baker noted carries a sentence of 8-1/3 to 25 years in prison. Brooks, Coppolla, Denaro, Nicholas Garcia, Goodman, Smith and Mendez were also charged with varying degrees of criminal possession of a controlled substance.
“Fighting drugs is a big deal,” Oswego County District Attorney Donald Dodd said.
Dodd pointed out that in addition to the 15 arrests in Oswego County through Operation Fultron, several others who hail from Oswego, Fulton, Hannibal and Syracuse were arrested Thursday through Oswego city police department on drug-related charges from an investigation that started in 2006. That group will be prosecuted through his office, Dodd said.
|Oswego County District Attorney Donald Dodd|
Dodd noted that the sale and use of drugs often has a causal relationship with other crimes, such as burglaries and larcenies. He also acknowledged that while the ongoing efforts to identify and apprehend those involved in drug sales are positive, they will not likely erase the problem.
“In a few months, there will be another person standing before you saying there was a drug sweep,” Dodd said.
He stressed, however, that successes in the efforts to stop those who provide others with illegal substances are based on collective efforts in law enforcement.
“The credit should go to the police officers…,” Dodd said. “They find the proof.”
Dodd credited the Oswego and Fulton city police departments for developing the information that was brought to the attorney general’s office and resulted in Operation Fultron. Officers were lent to the investigation from Fulton and Oswego, the Oswego County Sheriff’s Department, New York State Police, SUNY Oswego police department, the state Division of Parole, and the Greater Rochester Area Narcotics Enforcement Team.
“Trafficking of drugs is a river,” Dodd said. “Is it going on now? Of course it is.”
Emphasizing the need for cooperative efforts, Dodd noted that traffickers don’t care about municipal boundaries.
“We are at our best when we work together,” he said.
Via speakerphone, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo credited those involved in Operation Fultron. He stressed, too, that the ongoing battle of combating drugs will continue to be a key effort within his office.
“It is an ongoing battle that we are going to win,” Cuomo said.
The investigation was managed by OCTF Supervising Investigator Ronald Vincent under the direction of OCTF Chief Investigator Tom Mullen. It is being prosecuted by Assistant Deputy Attorney General and Senior Investigative Counsel James Mindell of the OCTF under the supervision of Peri Kadanoff, first assistant deputy attorney general for OCTF, and Baker.
Cuomo’s “Upstate Guns, Gangs and Drugs Initiative was created to stem the flow of deadly narcotics between jurisdictions and from downstate cities into upstate municipalities,” according to a release from the AG’s office.
“The initiative involves coordinating law enforcement agencies from federal, state and local levels into a cohesive force against organized drug rings and trafficking operations,” the release added. “The initiative has taken down multiple narcotics rights dealing in heroin, cocaine and other deadly drugs throughout the state and seized millions of dollars in drugs, guns and cash.”