Twenty-nine Indicted In Albany Narcotics Sweep

Attorney General Spitzer, State Police Superintendent Wayne Bennett, Albany County District Attorney David Soares, Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings, and Albany Police Chief James Tuffey today announced the indictments of 29 individuals charged with narcotics trafficking in Albany’s South End neighborhood stemming from an investigation dubbed "Operation Fast Food."

The charges, contained in three separate indictments, were unsealed today before Supreme Court Justice Joseph C. Teresi, and allege that the defendants were part of a crack and cocaine distribution network that stretched from New York City into Albany’s neighborhoods. More than three and one-half pounds of cocaine - possessing a street value of $150,000 - were seized during the investigation.

"Prosecutors, investigators, and state and local law-enforcement have teamed up to curtail the flow of drugs and incidents of gang violence in communities across New York," Spitzer said. "This latest effort will help make an Albany neighborhood safer and more secure."

New York State Police Superintendent Wayne E. Bennett said: "Through the coordinated efforts of the State Attorney General’s Office, the New York State Police, and the Albany Police Department, the indictments announced today exemplify the commitment to make Albany a safer place. Drug trafficking has long been the fuel for gang violence and proliferation. Gang activity has plagued a number of our communities and threatens the quality of life in our communities and our children’s futures. These indictments put gang members on notice that their activities will not be tolerated."

Albany County District Attorney David Soares said: "In January 2005, I promised that predatory criminals will be one of the number one targets of prosecution. This is an excellent example of our promise to have a tough and smart approach on crime—especially mid- to high-level drug dealers. These types of high-level, long-term and strategic investigations are conducted with the help and coordinated efforts by the New York State Attorney General’s Office - Organized Crime Task Force and local law enforcement agencies. It is our hope that this will aid in our programs such as the Safe Homes Safe Streets Initiative towards the stabilization of neighborhoods and to deter newcomers from entering and continuing business in the South End of Albany."

Mayor Gerald D. Jennings said: "Today’s significant announcement is a testimony to the continued success of cooperative law enforcement initiatives. Eliminating this criminal activity and the individuals involved hopefully will bring relief to the residents of the South End neighborhood. Vital to our continued effort in revitalizing and improving the quality of life in our City’s neighborhoods is ridding the drug element that can destroy a community. I would like to thank Attorney General Spitzer and the other law enforcement agencies that were instrumental in today’s indictments."


Chief James W. Tuffey said: "A prolonged, aggressive approach to open market drug dealing and other violent criminal activity is needed to improve the safety of our communities. Today’s indictments, after an intensive seven month investigation, have eliminated a significant portion of drug activity in the South End neighborhood. The success of "Operation Fast Food" reinforces the need for all law enforcement at every level to work cooperatively against narcotics trafficking."

The investigation began in October 2005 as part of an effort by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) to assist the Albany Police Department in combating emerging violent drug gangs in the Albany area. Working with additional investigative resources contributed by the State Police and the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, investigators were able to identify Pedro Payano-Abru 35, and Victor Rosa, 21, of New York City as the alleged suppliers, who were providing large amounts of cocaine to alleged dealers in the Albany area, notably Steven McGill, 36; Winfield Nicholson, 32; and Everette Tune, 31, all of Albany.

Utilizing the results of wiretaps and other evidence, investigators were to identify the multi-path distribution network. The indictment alleges that McGill and his associates would bundle orders for cocaine from several customers and place high-volume orders from his New York City suppliers. He would then dispatch local couriers to pick up the cocaine in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood and return to Albany.

The cocaine would then be delivered to defendant William Wheeler, 35 of Albany, who would break it into smaller packages for delivery to others, including Prince Hines. Hines, 23, of Albany, utilized Alex Price, 21, of Albany to "cook" cocaine and convert it to crack. Hines employed at least eight of the other co-defendants to sell the cocaine on Albany street corners for as little as $20 a package.

The cases announced today are part of an initiative launched by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force to combat gang activity across New York State. This initiative involves long-term, systematic efforts to make streets safer by shutting down intrastate pipelines of drugs into upstate cities, and deprive street level dealers of their supply of drugs, their income and their influence. Statewide efforts are particularly appropriate in these cases because the criminal conduct stretches hundreds of miles and through multiple jurisdictions making it difficult for local law enforcement alone to stop this activity.

Since this initiatives inception in 1999, the OCTF has arrested more than 750 defendants for class "A" and "B" level narcotics felonies; more than 500 firearms have been seized across the state.

The following individuals are in custody and scheduled to be arraigned today:

Naton Bland, 23; Chrisitine Colagiovianni, 37; Anthony Edmunds, 35; Robert Frazier, 30;
Eric Foster, 26; Lakie Grady, 28; Jamel Hines, 22; Prince Hines, 23; Tammi Hines, 36; Markquese Johnson, 27; Patrice McGill, 37; Steven McGill, 36; Benjamine Morton, 25; Winfield Nicholson, 42;
Loletha Patterson, 38; Alex Price, 21; Christopher Rodriguez, 26; Raymon Tibbs, 29; Jamie Walsh, 28; and William Wheeler, 35; all of Albany.

Pedro Payano-Abru, 35; and Victor Rosa, 21, both of New York City; and Catherine Miron, 24, of Cohoes.

Also in custody are Yolanda Russell, 31; and Shelton Hamlett, 25; both of Albany. Russell is in custody in Florida and will be presented to the court later this week. Hamlett was arrested on a felony complaint and was arraigned in Albany City Court on Saturday, April 29.

The charges included in the indictment are: Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First and Second Degrees, class "A" felonies; Conspiracy in the Second Degree is a class "B" felony; Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, class "C" felonies.

Defendants Frazier, Prince McGill, Steven McGill, Payano-Abru, Potter, Rosa, Russell Walsh, and Wheeler are all charged with class "A" felonies.

The charges in the indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The Attorney General thanked the Albany Police Department, New York State Police C-NET, and the New York State Division for Parole for their contributions to the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Deputy Attorney General John Dormin under the direction of Deputy Attorney General J. Christopher Prather of the Organized Crime Task Force.

They were assisted in the investigation by: OCTF investigators Dennis Tomasone, Jeff Sauter, Frank Kovacs, and the OCTF technical unit under the supervision of Investigator William Charles; Major Jack McCabe , Lieutenant Steve James, and Senior Investigator Sam Mercado of the New York State Police C-NET; Supervisor John Lowery of the New York State Division of Parole; and Assistant Chief Steve Krokoff, Sergeant Brian Quinn, and Sergeant Jeff Roberts of the Albany Police Department.

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