OSWEGO, NY – State Police officials described it as an open air (illegal) drug market. The Oswego County District Attorney said those (allegedly) involved were merchants of death.
At a joint press conference Tuesday, June 2, District Attorney Greg Oakes was joined by members of the New York State Police to announce the results of a large investigation into the sale of illegal drugs.
The drugs were allegedly being sold, many in plain sight, at the annual Sterling Stage FolkFest Music Festival, the DA said.
The drugs are valued at “tens of thousands” of dollar; some individual types of drugs were estimated to be worth $10,000 to $15,000, according to State Police.
Over the extended Memorial Day weekend, members of the Oswego County Drug Task Force worked with State Police Troopers and Investigators, including members of the NYSP Community Narcotics Enforcement Team at the festival in Oswego County, Oakes said.
Also taking part in the investigation were members of the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office, the Cayuga County Sheriff’s Office, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Oswego County DA’s Office and the Cayuga County DA’s Office.
“The operation was part of a long-term investigation regarding the sale and distribution of illegal drugs at the location,” Oakes said.
The operation should send a clear message to drug dealers to stay out of Oswego County, he added.
“We are vigorously prosecuting drug dealers and seeking state prison (sentences). The people who sell these substances aren’t just dealing drugs – they are dealing death,” Oakes said, referencing the rise in overdoses and associated deaths in recent years. “They are poisoning our community and it has to stop. We are taking a hard line and taking back our community.”
State police made several arrests in connection with the investigation. Suspects include people from the Central New York area as well as from Buffalo and as far away as California.
Uniformed patrols outside the venue made nine arrests for criminal possession of a controlled substance, one DWI arrest, 21 unlawful possession of marijuana arrests and they issued 87 V&T (vehicle and traffic) violations.
“This was pretty much an atmosphere where everything was available. This was pretty much like an open air drug supermarket,” NYSP Major David Krause said. “There was no hiding (what was going on); it was out there, it was advertised to the point where there were signs listing what was available for sale. There were people walking around with substances on trays or in hand and it was offered to festival-goers.”
It clearly was a public health hazard, he said, adding that no weapons were recovered.
“We have no problem with people going to the music festival, enjoying themselves. Our concern is with public safety,” Oakes explained. “As long as we can keep it safe and lawful, I have no objection with the festival continuing. I wish them success. We will be watching that venue.”
The investigation began last year as a result of complaints from members of the community to the DA’s Office and Drug Task Force.
“Members of the community were sick and tired of seeing drug dealers going in and out of the festival. They saw the ramifications after the festival, the loud noises, disorderly behavior and the general destruction of the community,” Oakes said.
Oswego County officials reached out to the State Police, who promptly responded with assistance, he added.
The investigation involved dozens of officers from the agencies; some working undercover to make direct buys of narcotics.
The drugs involved included cocaine, MDMA (“Molly”), hallucinogenic mushrooms, hash as well as prescription drugs, according to the DA.
Undercover officers made 46 buys over the weekend.
“Some of the under cover officers were able to make multiple purchases,” Oakes said. “These purchases were recorded for use in prosecution further down the road. I cannot express how grateful I am to the New York State Police for their cooperation in this highly-successful effort. We have been working over the last few years to remove dangerous drugs from our community. And this is absolutely a huge step in the right direction.”
There were about 30 arrests made outside the venue and 14 arrests made inside the venue. Most of the arrests were for selling drugs. More arrests are anticipated.
Oakes thanked all the officers “who put themselves at risk to conduct this operation. They put their safety and lives at risk and they do so for our community. We owe them all a debt of gratitude.”
“The 46 undercover buys that we did inside, we could have probably done three times that,” Krause noted. “We purposely were making buys to make the cases that we needed. But, it was just prevalent inside that we could have done a lot more. Our big concern was we didn’t want to create a situation inside the festival where things were going to get out of hand. We were very careful about the way we targeted folks.”
The investigation is on-going.
The Oswego County Drug Task Force is comprised of three District Attorney investigators and officers and investigators from the Oswego County Sheriff’s Department, NYS University Police at Oswego, Fulton City Police Department and Oswego City Police Department.
And, just recently, the US Border Patrol assigned an investigator to work with the task force for a commitment of two years.
Anyone with information regarding this investigation or other illegal drug activity is urged to contact investigators at 315-349-8222 or email [email protected]
All information will remain anonymous.
The following individuals were arrested during the four-day event:
Stephen E. Jensen, 38, from Rochester, for CPCS 7th, CUDP 2nd and UPM
Douglas S. Crane, 36, from Rochester, for CPCS 3rd, CPCS 7th, CUDP 2nd and UPM
Daniel L. Cady, 55, from Buffalo, for CSCS 2nd and two counts CSCS 3rd
Thomas L. McCarthy, 35, from North Syracuse, for two counts CSCS 5th
Shane S. Rose, 48, from Lima, for two counts CSCS 5th
Ryan C. McCollumn, 34, from Livonia, for CSCS 4th and CSCS 5th
Meghesh Pansari, 20, from Rochester, for two counts criminal sale of marijuana 4th
Nathan D. Ryan, 34, from Ithaca, for criminal sale of marijuana 4th
Nicholas K. Michcilidis, 25, from Lucerne, Calif., for two counts criminal sale of marijuana 4th
Timothy J. Gordon, 58, from Hammond, for criminal sale of marijuana 4th
Dina M. Peck, 42, from Kirkville, for two counts CSCS 3rd
David L. Liechti, 33, from Sodus, for CSCS 5th
Daniel W. Yeara, 45, from Wolcott, for CSCS 5th
Patrick J. Fulton, 29, from Sodus, for two counts CSCS 3rd
CUDP – Criminal Use of Drug Paraphernalia
CPSC – Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance
CSCS – Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance.
UPM – Unlawful Possession of Marijuana