Authorities Break Up Cocaine Distribution "cells" In Cny

New York State Attorney General Spitzer, Onondaga County District Attorney William J. Fitzpatrick, and New York State Police Superintendent James W. McMahon today announced the indictment of 47 individuals for cocaine trafficking in Central New York.

The 85-count indictment is believed to be the largest drug bust in Central New York history and comes after a 16 month investigation by the Attorney General's statewide Organized Crime Task Force, working with the Onondaga County District Attorney's Office, the Syracuse Police Department, the New York State Police and the Onondaga County Sheriff's Office.

"State and local law enforcement officials have won a major victory in the battle against illegal drug activity in Central New York," Spitzer said. "Over a dozen drug trafficking cells have been disrupted and scores of dealers taken off the streets. With this action and through continuing joint efforts, we are making progress in helping neighborhoods plagued by drugs, violence and gang activity in Syracuse."

District Attorney William J. Fitzpatrick said: "I would like to commend all the individuals who have worked tirelessly on this investigation for the past 16 months. This once again proves that joint efforts within this state and county are effective in combating narcotic trafficking. Our message is very clear we will not tolerate this activity in Onondaga County."

State Police Superintendent James W. McMahon said: "The dismantling of the drug trafficking organizations will help return the streets of Central New York to law abiding citizens. This case is yet another example of the success that can be achieved by law enforcement when we combine resources and work cooperatively towards a common goal."

Syracuse Chief Dennis DuVal said: "This is the most significant drug investigation in the history of the Syracuse Police Department. I credit the success of the investigation to the continued cooperation between the Syracuse Police Department and the Attorney General's office. The combined efforts of all the law enforcement agencies involved in this case has led to the arrest of several high level drug dealers in the City of Syracuse."

The indictment alleges that over a dozen cocaine distribution "cells" and "gangs" in Syracuse were receiving cocaine in up to multi-kilogram quantities that originated in Colombia. The drug was transported to Central New York from New York City.

During the investigation, more than 35 pounds (15.9 kilograms) of cocaine, with an estimated wholesale value in excess of $350,000 and a street value of approximately $1.5 million dollars were seized in Onondaga County.

Officials said a single distribution group dealer based in upper Manhattan was supplying over a dozen drug rings in and around Syracuse. Through painstaking investigative work, authorities developed evidence against this distribution group and identified high level operatives of Syracuse-based drug rings.

The indictment names Manhattan residents Steven Sanchez and Edwin Taveras as top figures in the drug distribution pyramid. They are charged with controlling the distribution of multiple kilograms of cocaine to Onondaga County and Schenectady counties during the last year.

Sanchez and Taveras were arrested in the Town of Dewitt on May 10 and were charged with possession of two and one-half kilograms of crack cocaine. They are currently being held in Onondaga County.

The indictment charges scores of individuals who were upper-level drug dealers in Syracuse and throughout Central New York. Arraignments for these defendants started early this morning in Onondaga County Court before Judge William Walsh. A chart identifying defendants that are in custody, and the charges are attached.

The indictment also charges two additional defendants in New York City, who are believed to be responsible for supplying cocaine to Sanchez and Taveras. Two kilograms of cocaine and more than $200,000 were seized in Queens County in connection with the case.

Authorities say the case has been coordinated with the Federal Drug Enforcement Task Force in New York City.

The case is the latest in a series of actions by a task force of law enforcement agencies in Central New York. In September 1999, Spitzer and Fitzpatrick announced the indictment of five individuals linked to a cocaine ring operating between Rochester and Syracuse. In April 2001, Spitzer and Cortland County District Attorney Robert Jewett announced the arrest of 11 people charged with operating a cocaine network in Cortland County. In November 2001, Spitzer and Cayuga County District Attorney James Vargason announced the indictment of 22 people believed to be involved in a cocaine distribution network based in Auburn. And in June of this year, Spitzer and Jewett announced the indictment of 26 individuals linked to a cocaine ring operating between Cortland and the Bronx.

The defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

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