Tag Archive | "East End Drug Task Force"

East End Drug Task Force Busts “Hollywood” Heroin Ring

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By Kathryn G. Menu

When the East End Drug Task Force last week busted a ring of heroin dealers in Riverhead officials say was trafficking in a particularly potent brand of the drug, it cast a light on the growing problem of opiate addiction across Suffolk County, including the East End.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota on February 19 announced the arrest of nine men, who officials say were involved in the sale of  “Hollywood” heroin,  a brand he said commanded a premium price on the street because of its strength and brought buyers to Riverhead from Sag Harbor to Ronkonkoma and the North Fork.

The defendants, who all face multiple felony charges, were arrested between October and February.

“This heroin distribution network is based in New York City, where the alleged local East End dealers would travel to buy the heroin from three Harlem men and return to the East End with sleeves of heroin, each containing 100 individual doses packaged for immediate sale to users,” said Mr. Spota.

Mr. Spota said the three defendants from Manhattan have “lengthy criminal histories” and a cumulative total of 28 felony and misdemeanor convictions—almost all of them for drug-related crimes.

The “Hollywood” heroin ring included six men Mr. Spota referred to as the “Riverhead crew.” Robert Baker, 46, of Riverhead; Leon Langhorne, 38, of Riverhead; Leroy Langhorne, 41, of Riverside; Joseph Thomas, 41, of Mastic; Jerome Trent, 58, of Riverhead; and Farrow Sims, 42, of Calverton allegedly sold what Mr. Spota said was a particularly potent brand of heroin, marked with a red lettered stamp “Hollywood” on each dose.

Heroin with the red “Hollywood” stamp, said Mr. Spota, was a premium brand of the drug police learned during the course of the investigation that local users would pay a premium price for. According to Mr. Spota’s office, the price of “Hollywood” branded heroin is up to 50 to 100 percent more expensive than other street heroin.

“On average, street heroin in Suffolk can cost as much as $10 per bag, but the heroin stamped with the word “Hollywood” cost $15 to $20 a dose—because of its potency,” said Mr. Spota.

According to Mr. Spota, drug task force detectives made purchases and witnessed others buying the heroin in parking lots of retail businesses along Route 58 in Riverhead. He said enough evidence was gathered by the team to arrest and indict the defendants using confidential informants, undercover officers and, eventually, wiretaps.

The East End Drug Task Force is a multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement unit that includes detectives and officers from the New York State Police, Suffolk County Police Department, Suffolk County Sheriff, as well as town and village police departments including East Hampton Town and Village, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton Town and Village and Southold.

Drug sales took place along Route 58, in parking lots of the Tanger Outlet Mall, Walmart, gas stations, Home Depot and the Department of Motor Vehicles, as well as in the McDonalds parking lot on Route 24. Addicts using the “Hollywood” heroin, said Mr. Spota, were primarily from Sag Harbor, Greenport, Miller Place, Rocky Point, Ronkonkoma and Southampton.

The heroin was purchased by the “Riverhead crew,” according to Mr. Spota, from three men from East Harlem. Jose Calvente, 65, Jose Morales, 75, and Carlos Ramos, 52.

Mr. Calvente, Mr. Morales and Mr. Ramos all face various counts of felony charges including criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree and conspiracy. Mr. Calvente and Mr. Ramos were held in Suffolk County Jail in Riverside in lieu of $250,000 bail and Mr. Morales was remanded to the Suffolk County Jail in Yaphank, also in lieu of $250,000 bail.

The six men in the “Riverhead crew” also face multiple felony charges, including various counts and degrees of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. Mr. Baker, Leroy Langhorne, Leon Langhorne, and Mr. Sims face counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the second degree, a felony. Mr. Baker, both Langhornes and Mr. Sims also face felony conspiracy charges; Mr. Trent has been charged with misdemeanor counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, and criminal use of drug paraphernalia in the second degree; and Mr. Sims faces a misdemeanor count of criminal possession in the fourth degree.

Mr. Baker was remanded to Suffolk County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bail; Both Leroy and Leon Langhorne were released on their own recognizance, as was Mr. Trent. Mr. Thomas was remanded to Suffolk County Jail in lieu of $75,000 bail and Mr. Sims was remanded in lieu of $200,000 bail.

During the investigation, over 2,000 bags of heroin were confiscated, as was thousands of dollars in cash.

According to Mr. Spota, heroin with the “Hollywood” stamp was first noticed by local law enforcement on the East End when overdoses, none fatal, occurred in 2011. Heroin use is not a new problem in Suffolk County, said Mr. Spota—a sentiment echoed by Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, the executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD) and Southampton Town Justice Deborah Kooperstein, who also serves as a justice for the East End Regional Intervention Court.

The low cost of heroin is cited by all three as having an impact on the increase in abuse. They also cite an increase in the abuse of opioids—narcotic painkillers that can be legally prescribed by a doctor that share similar qualities to drugs like heroin, an opiate derivative.

In 2012 a special grand jury was empanelled by Mr. Spota and issued a 99-page report on the plague of opioid abuse in Suffolk County and recommendations on how to combat that problem in the wake of a 2011 pharmacy robbery that left four dead in Medford. According to the District Attorney’s office, in that case David Laffer, 33 at the time, admitted he was in search of prescription painkillers for himself and his wife when he gunned down two store employees and two customers at the pharmacy. Laffer pled guilty to five counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

According to a 2012 report, between 1996 and 2011, heroin use “rose steadily accounting for a 425 percent increase in the number of participants in the Suffolk County Drug Court Program. During this same period, opioid pill use accounted for a startling 1,136 percent increase.”

“To compare, cocaine use resulted in a 29-percent increase during the same period, but declined 13 percent between 1996 and 2001,” reads the report.

“Between 2006 and 2010, heroin arrests rose from 486 to 1315, an increase of approximately 170 percent,” the report continues. “Opiate abusers in Suffolk County fell into a vicious cycle of alternating between expensive opioid analgesic pills and the cheaper heroin creating a large overall class of opiate abusers and addicts.”

According to Dr. Reynolds, LICADD has seen the increase in abuse firsthand. In the last five years the council went from serving 100 families dealing with opiate abuse monthly to 850 in January of 2014.

“It has been a steady climb,” said Dr. Reynolds.

Making the jump from prescription pills to heroin, said Dr. Reynolds, can often be tied to economics and availability. With prescription opiates now more expensive and difficult to obtain, those who are hooked can sometimes look for the less expensive street heroin for their fix.

Dr. Reynolds noted heroin use is not limited to one demographic, but is a drug abused across the board.

“In a lot of ways, today it is a solidly middle class phenomena,” he said, “whereas back in the day it was mostly an issue in poorer minority communities that were decimated by drugs like heroin.”

Teenagers to those leading seemingly successful adult lives—and everyone in-between—are susceptible to becoming addicted to a drug like heroin, said Judge Kooperstein.

“Right now in the drug court, the youngest person we are working with is 18 and we had a graduate yesterday who is 58,” she said, noting most people in the East End Regional Intervention Court system are heroin addicts.

“Heroin is here because it is cheap,” Judge Kooperstein said, agreeing with Dr. Reynolds that this is a drug being abused, like others, in all communities, not just those tucked away from suburbia.

“You can’t divorce yourself from this,” she said. “It’s everywhere.”

North Sea Raid Nets Drug Arrest

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Johnson, Michael - mug

An early morning drug raid Thursday in North Sea led to an arrest after police said they seized a variety of drugs — including heroin and cocaine — and packing materials from a Locust Avenue residence.

Michael Johnson, 27, was arrested at 6:27 a.m. last Thursday, May 23 after the East End Drug Task Force (EEDTF) seized illegal drugs at the Southampton home, according to a press release issued by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota’s office.

Johnson was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree — intent to sell, a class B felony, as well as criminal possession of a controlled substance — narcotic, criminal possession of a narcotic drug in the fourth degree, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, all felony counts. Johnson also faces charges of criminal use of drug paraphernalia in the second degree, unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation, and for acting in a manner injurious to a child, a misdemeanor.

“Inside the home, EEDTF investigators seized heroin, cocaine, marijuana, pills, cash, as well as scales and packaging materials,” said Spota.

The search warrant, according to Spota’s office, was the result of an investigation into drug sales activity in the North Sea, Southampton area. Southampton Town Police Emergency Services Unit assisted task force member agencies in serving the warrant as did the New York State Police K-9 unit, said DA Spota.

Johnson was arraigned in Southampton Town Justice Court and was held in lieu of $5,000 bail.

The East End Drug Task Force is a multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement unit funded by the office of Suffolk County District Attorney. The task force includes detectives, police officers and law enforcement personnel from the New York State Police, Suffolk County Police Department , Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, Suffolk County Department of Probation, Southampton Town Police Department, Riverhead Police Department, East Hampton Town Police Department, Easthampton Village Police Department, Southampton Village Police Department, Sag Harbor Village Police Department, Southold Police Department and Suffolk County District Attorney Investigators.

Ex-Con with Sag Harbor Past Pulls Gun During Questioning

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By Kathryn G. Menu

An ex-convict with a criminal past linked to Noyac was admitted to the psychiatric unit of Stony Brook University Hospital on Tuesday, September 25. Police say there was an altercation at the suspect’s Wading River home after police went to the house to question the 60-year-old about a missed parole meeting and a drug enforcement officer had to open fire on the suspect after he allegedly pointed a handgun at himself and then police officers.

According to a press release issued by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office on Wednesday, September 26, Thomas Michael Counihan, of Wading River-Manor Road, currently on probation for a drug possession charge, displayed a loaded Colt .45 while investigators from the East End Drug Task Force searched his room last Tuesday night for illegal narcotics after Counihan missed a parole meeting.

The press release states that Counihan grabbed the gun from the top of his bed and first pointed the gun barrel at his face, then his chest. Counihan then began to turn the gun towards two officers, according to police, and it was at that point one of the officers fired one shot at Counihan, missing him, but prompting the suspect to drop to the floor.

In Counihan’s room, officers say they found and seized 250 packets of heroin, approximately two ounces of powder cocaine, a large plastic bag containing marijuana, a syringe and nine unlabeled prescription bottles containing various pills.

“It is clear the police officer’s discharge of his weapon, given the circumstances, was justified,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.

According to District Attorney Spota, when Counihan is released from the psychiatric unit of Stony Brook University Hospital he will be charged with Criminal Possession of a Loaded Handgun, a felony, as well as for possession of heroin, cocaine and marijuana.

“We are relieved that the two East End Drug Task Force officers were not injured during the standoff with this dangerous, violent felon,” he said.

Counihan’s criminal history includes six convictions, four on felony charges, including a violent felony conviction in 1985 for a Southampton Village robbery in which Counihan used a deadly weapon, said police.

Part of Counihan’s criminal history also dates back to the Sag Harbor area.

According to a 1990 article in The Sag Harbor Express, written by then reporter Thomas Horn, Jr. — now a Sag Harbor-based attorney — in July of 1988 Counihan was arrested for possession of two ounces of cocaine, holding “a large amount of cash” that did not exceed $1,000 as well as various drug packing materials.

At the time, Counihan was residing in the Noyac Road residence that belonged to his mother, Josephine Counihan, and the suspect’s ex-wife.

At the time of the 1988 arrest, Counihan was already on parole from a 1982 conviction for armed robbery and was indicted on the drug charges.

After his arrest, Southampton Town Police, in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Agency, made application to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and a warrant for seizure of the Noyac Road property was issued.

After police proved in court that Counihan’s mother allegedly was aware of the criminal activity taking place at the home, the house was seized on February 15, 1990 with police taking control of the residence that July.

Forty-five percent of the proceeds of the home’s sale went to Counihan’s ex-wife, 45 percent was transferred to Southampton Town Police and 10 percent given to the federal government, according to Horn’s article.

After the house was sold, it was demolished by new owners in the early 1990s.

In Horn’s article, Southampton Town Police termed it “the first decision of its kind for a property located on Long Island.”

photos: East End Drug Task Force