Twenty-nine people have been charged as part of an investigation into a “major cocaine and money trafficking organization” working out of Utica that also included a business, officials said.
Seventeen of those charged are believed to be local-level drug dealers from the Utica area. But officials say what made this bust important is investigators also were able to identify the suppliers and associates of those believed to be local dealers. That information led to the arrest and indictment of 12 other people in December.
“The cooperative efforts of all the law enforcement agencies involved have resulted in the take-down of local drug wholesalers, mid-level distributors and most importantly, their suppliers,” U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian said in a news release. “I commend the tireless efforts of every law enforcement officer in making this community a safer place to live, work and raise families.”
DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian R. Crowell said the alleged drug ring used Facebook to communicate in order to move cocaine across state and international lines.
Those accused of being local dealers were charged in two separate indictments that were unsealed in U.S. District Court, both related to allegations that the groups trafficked in cocaine and crack cocaine, the release stated.
Those defendants, all of whom were either arrested or sought Wednesday, are charged with conspiring to distribute drugs from the summer of 2011 through June 26, 2012, the release stated.
• Sean Hagans, a/k/a “Pretty,” 42, of Utica;
• Timothy Rider, 46, of Utica;
• Alexis Tarris, 26, Frankfort;
• Scott Fyfe, 41, Utica;
• Michael Lynch, 39, of Utica;
• Reid Sook, a/k/a “Country,” 38, of Utica;
• Arthur Charles Robinson, 24, of Utica;
• John Robinson, a/k/a “Pooh Bear,” 38, of Utica;
• Cecil Jeffrey Palmer, a/k/a “Cry Baby,” 42, of Utica;
• Brandon Winn, 20, of Niagara Falls;
• Dennis Amsdill, 29, of Lewiston;
• Kimberly Springer, 31, of Utica;
• Raymond Schloop, 41, of Utica;
• Jim Caruso, 46, of Utica;
• Michael Rossi, a/k/a “Ross,” 50, of Utica;
• Sean Palmer, a/k/a “Ram,” 40, of Utica; and
• Crawford Gary, a/k/a “Cliff,” 44, of Utica.
The indictment alleges that Lynch, a local car dealer who operates Southside Auto on Whitesboro Street in Utica, allowed his property to be used as a “drug distribution center” and as a money laundering site for drug dealers, who bought and sold cars through him, the release stated.
The investigation that led to the charges began in May 2012, when investigators obtained court orders to wiretap phone lines used by those believed to be involved.
On June 26, 2012, Sooks was arrested and five search warrants were executed in Utica, resulting in the seizure of about $20,000, two vehicles and a large quantity of prescription drugs, the release stated.
Page 2 of 2 - On July 18, 2012, two more federal search warrants were executed in Utica, resulting in the seizure of 15 ounces of cocaine, about $7,000 and three cars, as well as documents related to financial crimes, the release stated.
If convicted, each defendant faces a minimum of 10 years in prison or up to a life sentence, as well as a $10 million fine and at least five years of supervised release.
Lynch faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for the charges he faces, a fine of $2 million and three years of supervised release, the release stated.
The 12 people accused of being higher-level suppliers were:
• Francisco Linares Perez, a/k/a “Jimmy,” 28, of Utica;
• Gustavo Perez, 31, of Utica;
• Natanael Perez-Martinez, a/k/a “Jose Ramos-Tapia,” 27, of Utica;
• Reynaldo Javier-Hernandez, a/k/a “Rey,” 34, of Utica;
• Tomas Cazanas, a/k/a “Cuba,” 67, of Utica;
• Sabhudin Palo, a/k/a “the Bosnian,” 25, of Utica;
• Margaret Boutell, 26, of Utica;
• Olvin Rivera, 30, of Utica;
• Harold Nelson, 42, of Utica;
• Pablo Goico, 29, of Utica;
• Jason Rodriguez, 29, of Utica; and
• Anthony Degristina, 33, a/k/a “the Italian,” of Utica.
The investigation into suppliers resulted in the seizure of about 17 kilograms of powdered cocaine, $37,000 in cash, five vehicles and prescription drugs, the release stated.
Agencies assisting in the investigation included the DEA Syracuse Resident Office, the New York State Police-CommunityNarcotics Enforcement Team, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations and other agencies, including U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations-Albany Office, Utica police, the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office, DEA Resident Office-Allentown, Pa., and DEA New York City Group T-12.