Federal agents swept through Poughkeepsie Wednesday night and Thursday morning and collared a dozen members of a reputed heroin distribution ring, authorities said.
FBI agents, working with the City of Poughkeepsie police, and the Dutchess County sheriff's office, conducted a series of coordinated raids that led to the arrests of seven alleged members of the reputed ring. Another five accused participants were already jailed on unrelated charges, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.
The ring's nexus was a cellphone store. The store is not named in the indictments. But federal law enforcement sources identified it as Cell It Boost Mobile at 345 Main St.
There was no answer at the store Thursday. While the latest BlackBerry, Nokia, and Motorola phones are available in most cell phone stores, Cell It Boost Mobile's offerings were called "Scarface," "True Religion," and "Rated R," federal prosecutors said.
"At first glance, the cellphone store from which these defendants were allegedly operating looked like any other commercial establishment, but in fact, it was the epicenter of their dangerous, destructive, and potentially lethal heroin operation," Bharara said.
The ring was in business from at least January 2011 up until the takedown over the last couple of days, law enforcement officials said.
The ring, dubbed the "Fisher Organization" by federal agents, did not just peddle the street-level heroin bags from the store, authorities said.
They operated on the streets of the city, making sales on Lincoln Street, Virginia Avenue, Corlies Street, and Eastman Terrace in the heart of the downtown area of Poughkeepsie, a city that, like its neighbor across the Hudson River, Newburgh, has been beset by crime problems stemming from drugs and gangs as it struggles to reinvent itself in the postindustrial era.
Bharara and the FBI have made targeting Newburgh's violent crime a priority through local and federal partnerships. Now, federal authorities are spreading that approach to other cities in the Hudson Valley facing similar problems -- like Poughkeepsie.
"Our community benefits greatly from these joint investigations and the federal prosecution these individuals now face," Poughkeepsie Police Chief Ronald Knapp said.
The defendants were all charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, a crime which carries a maximum penalty of life behind bars. All the defendants are from Poughkeepsie. They include alleged ring leader Shabari Fisher, 33, Shateek Parker, 28, Garen Fisher, 29, Shannon Walker, 23, Tyrell Rudolph, 24, Steven Williams, 23, Rasheed Harrell, 25, Carlos Reyes, 20, Christian Parker, 21, Vaughn McKinney, 35, Gary Sessoms 51, and Tony Jarrett, 28.
Fisher and Parker allegedly secured the heroin, then passed it on to the other ring members to sell on the streets of Poughkeepsie, the indictment unsealed today said.
All 12 men are awaiting arraignment today in U.S. District Court in White Plains. Lawyers for the men have not yet been assigned by the magistrate judge who will oversee the arraignment.