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Suffolk DA: Heroin, prostitution ring busted

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota holds a

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota holds a press conference in Riverhead to announce the arrests of eight people connected to a Coram-based drug and prostitution ring after a yearlong investigation by heroin task force detectives. (Aug. 13, 2012) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Standing beside a table with uncut heroin, several Rolex watches, $130,000 in cash and a diamond necklace, Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota Monday announced the arrest of eight people in a drug and prostitution ring after a yearlong investigation.

The criminal conspiracy was unusual, Spota said, because the same people were directing a ring that encompassed both drugs and prostitution. The ring also brought raw heroin -- instead of prepackaged, diluted powder -- from New York City to Suffolk County, he said.

"I can't remember another instance when we had both of them working at the same time," referring to drugs and prostitution being under the same direction, Spota said at a news conference Monday in Riverhead.

The two ringleaders, Sandra Russell, 26, and Steven McDaniel, 29, both of Coram, continued to conspire even after McDaniel was arrested in November and held at the Suffolk County jail, the district attorney said.

In jail, McDaniel wrote a letter telling Russell how to manage their four prostitutes, Spota said.

"Always make them need and depend on you so you have power over them. (Power is control)," the letter read, according to prosecutors.

Russell, who was arrested in the last few weeks, was "a master manipulator of these women," Spota added. Besides providing the prostitutes with housing, food and clothing, Russell paid her workers in heroin.

"That's how they [Russell and McDaniel] kept them dependent," Spota said.

The heroin ring -- centered in Coram -- brought in about $35,000 a month, Spota said. Russell would buy 50-gram packages of raw heroin from her Bronx-based supplier one or two times per month, cutting it with a type of alcohol called mannitol and packaging it in $10 bags.

"She was bypassing the middleman," Spota said.

Police also confiscated $8,000 in cash from Russell's home and more than $120,000 in two safe-deposit boxes.

Russell's attorney, Glenn Obedin of Central Islip, said, "I'm confident that once the facts of the case actually come out, Ms. Russell will be acquitted of the charges."

Attorneys for McDaniel and the other defendants could not be reached Monday.

Among the communities where the ring operated were Coram, Medford, Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson Station, Centereach, Selden, Farmingville, Patchogue and Middle Island, Spota's office said.

Besides Russell and McDaniel, those arrested include; Taquan Rashad, 43, of the Bronx, who is accused of supplying drugs to Russell; Lee Appling, 46, of 1974 Route 112, Coram, charged with assisting Russell and running a house where the drugs were stashed; and several others accused of being drug runners: David Holmes, 51, of Coram; Jennifer Licata, 23, of Farmingville; Jahiteak Appling, 21, of Medford; and Deborah Trezza, 22, of Coram, the district attorney's office said.

The eight were expected to be arraigned at a later date.

With Zachary R. Dowdy

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