Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota announced arrests Wednesday in two separate heroin dealing rings — one of which he said was responsible for five overdose deaths last year.
Two of the dead were a young man and his mother, who Spota said died just six hours after one of the defendants sold them fentanyl-laced heroin at their Manorville home.
The arrests, which came after a 14-month investigation by police and prosecutors that included 56 days of wiretaps, illustrate the tenacity of heroin addiction, particularly in Suffolk County, which leads the state in overdoses, Spota said.StoryData: Opiate overdoses kill 442 on LI in 2015EditorialEditorial: LI is losing the battle against heroinPhotosHeroin on the rise on LI
“We are not going to arrest our way out of this situation,” he said, calling for state funding for drug education and treatment. “I am not in any way suggesting we are winning this war. But we can’t lay down.”
In the last five years, Suffolk authorities have made 1,080 drug dealing arrests, mostly involving heroin and cocaine, Spota said. Twenty-seven of those defendants were charged with operating as a major trafficker, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years to life in prison.
Yet last year, the county set records in opiate deaths — with 126 from heroin overdoses and 54 from fentanyl overdoses. In a five-year period ending Dec. 31, 2013, Suffolk led every county in the state in fatal heroin overdoses, including the boroughs of New York City.
As bad as the situation is now, Spota warned that drug addiction may be about to get much worse. He said Canadian authorities have been dealing with a new synthetic opiate called W-18, which is 10,000 times more potent than morphine. Spota said a tiny dose the size of a grain of salt could kill.
W-18 is so new it is not yet illegal to possess, he said.
In one of the two heroin rings, seven people are charged with selling fentanyl-laced heroin — making it more potent — in the Shirley area. That ring moved tens of thousands of doses during the investigation and is behind 17 overdoses in 2015, five of them fatal, Spota said.
Those deaths include a 19-year-old man and his 54-year-old mother, who died shortly after one of the defendants, Ian Dunn, 21, of Shirley, came to their home and sold them heroin, Spota said. The other fatalities — three men between 26 and 31 years old — were Dunn’s neighbors in Shirley, he said.
Spota said drug dealers can’t be charged with homicide in New York unless they actually inject the drugs.
— Yulisa Almonte, 25, of Bay Shore. She is charged with operating as a major trafficker, second-degree conspiracy and other charges. At her arraignment Wednesday, Assistant District Attorney Dana Gremaux said Almonte distributed heroin to other members of her ring. State Supreme Court Justice William Condon set bail at $1 million cash or $2 million bond.
— Dunn, who is charged with conspiracy and drug charges. “He appears to have no legitimate employment, yet he has in his possession two BMWs,” Gremaux said. Condon ordered him held without bail.
— Richard Castano, 26, of Ridge, charged with conspiracy and drug charges. Gremaux said Castano was Dunn’s assistant, renting vehicles for him. Defense attorney Ira Rosenberg said the accusations against Castano are less serious, but Condon ordered him held on $250,000 cash bail or $500,000 bond.
— Kenyatta Grier, 34, of Amityville, charged with conspiracy and drug charges. Gremaux said Grier used a teenage son to make a drug purchase for her. Defense attorney Robert Macedonio denied that and said she was part of no conspiracy. Condon set bail at $500,000 cash or $1 million bond.
— Jason Dyer, 25, of Center Moriches, charged with conspiracy and drug charges. Defense attorney Keith O’Halloran said his client is “a victim of addiction” who needs help. Condon, noting that Dyer was recorded on a wiretap saying he’d play up his status as a Navy veteran if arrested, ordered him held without bail.
— Kavaughn Wiggins, 21, of Ridge, charged with conspiracy and drug charges. He will be arraigned Friday.
— Felicia Reilly, 24, of Medford, charged with conspiracy and drug charges. She will be arraigned Thursday.
In the other ring, Hervil St. Louis, 38, of Jamaica, Queens, is accused of supplying high-grade heroin to Anthony Baptiste, 31, of Brentwood, who prosecutors say sold it on the streets of Brentwood and Central Islip. Each of the men, arrested last month, is charged with operating as a major trafficker and other drug charges.
In that case, St. Louis had so many aliases that police weren’t sure where he actually lived, until he was overheard on a wiretap ordering Chinese food, said Assistant District Attorney Jacob Kubetz. The delivery address was his, Kubetz said.
St. Louis is held on bail of $25 million cash or $50 million bond.
Baptiste, held on bail of $1 million cash or $3 million bond, is a party promoter for whom this arrest is “completely out of character,” said Macedonio, his attorney.