A drug ring that trafficked Mexican cocaine and heroin from Arizona to New York City and used Long Island as a distribution hub for major dealers in four other states has been “crushed,” law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said 17 people are facing drug-related charges for their roles in a criminal enterprise that netted between $50,000 and $75,000 a week and involved several members of the same family.
“This case was different and unique in that Nassau served as the hub for wholesale distribution of large quantities of narcotics, destined for sale hundreds of miles away,” she said at a morning news conference. “We collaborated with law enforcement agencies in those jurisdictions to make sure we crushed these supply chains.”
Investigators said they seized more than 12 pounds of cocaine in all — including 6.6 pounds after executing search warrants locally Tuesday. They also recovered four ounces of heroin, $190,000, two defaced guns, drug packaging equipment, kilogram presses, a wristwatch worth more than $100,000 and a Porsche, a BMW and a Mercedes-Benz.
Kevin Larkin, the assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Long Island office, said Tuesday’s takedown was the culmination of a five-month wiretap investigation to dismantle the Nassau-based drug ring. The defendants sold mostly cocaine and crack cocaine, along with smaller amounts of heroin, with their customer base stretching from Nassau, Suffolk and Queens counties north to Syracuse and south to Maryland, authorities said.
Larkin said since October 2016, the ring had pumped about 6.6 pounds of cocaine onto Nassau’s streets every month, and sold nearly 9 pounds a month in upstate New York and Baltimore.
Drug couriers took commercial flights two or three times a month from Phoenix to John F. Kennedy Airport, smuggling cocaine inside suitcases, according to the DEA official.
Authorities said first cousins Lyonel Beaubren, 41, of Rosedale, and Kervin Etienne, 37, of West Hempstead, and another unnamed relative founded the ring and stored the drugs at traphouses in Nassau and Queens before other organization members transported the narcotics so they could be sold.
The group supplied drugs to major dealers in New York City and on Long Island, as well as upstate and in Chicago, Maine, Maryland and Virginia, officials said.
The arrests came as authorities grapple with a huge spike in opioid addiction and the crime it fuels. Almost 500 people died from opioid overdoses on Long Island in 2016, the most ever, with the powerful drug fentanyl leading the way, records show.
The defendants face a variety of charges in an eight-count indictment that includes conspiracy, drug sale and possession offenses and criminal facilitation charges after what authorities have alleged was a drug conspiracy that operated from May 2016 to last month.
Beaubren stands accused of operating as a major drug trafficker, a crime that carries a potential penalty of up to 25 years to life in prison. His attorney, Anthony Rattoballi of Garden City South, said Wednesday that his client maintains his innocence and is “despondent and surprised by the arrest.”
The lawyer added that he plans to challenge the validity of the warrant that authorized eavesdropping on his client’s phone.
Authorities said they arrested 12 alleged ring members Tuesday — four from Long Island — before arraignments in which a number of court-appointed attorneys represented defendants as they entered not-guilty pleas.
Prosecutors said four more defendants already were behind bars and were awaiting arraignment and that one suspect remains at large.
Law enforcement officials identified the other alleged ring members as: Jean-Luc Theodore, 35, of Valley Stream; Jaksem Philippe, 42, of Far Rockaway; Musheer Reid, 34, of Brooklyn; Emmanuel Lemite, 38, of Rosedale; Ebony Johnson, 36, of Brooklyn; John Beaubrun, 38, of West Hempstead; Naeemah Smith, 37, of Rosedale; Sandra Marseilles, 38, of Rosedale; Sully Botello, 33, of Central Islip; and Ashley Cumbo, 27, of Bellerose Terrace.
Authorities dubbed their investigation Operation Gillespie to commemorate the career of district attorney’s office Special Investigator William Gillespie, who died suddenly in July at age 56 shortly after making arrests in the case.
“This is what makes the people of Nassau County safer, by taking these drugs off the street,” acting Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said. “Billy’s looking down saying ‘Great job guys.’ ”