Twenty-two Indicted In Drug Distribution Ring As Part Of Attorney General Cuomo's Upstate Guns, Gangs And Drugs Initiative

NIAGARA FALLS, NY (Oct. 30, 2007) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced today the indictment of 22 New Yorkers accused of taking part in a highly coordinated narcotics distribution operation. The indictments and subsequent arrests came through a joint operation between the Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force and the Niagara Falls Police Department and were part of Cuomo's ongoing Upstate Guns, Gangs and Drugs Initiative.

In the indictment unsealed today, a Niagara County Grand Jury charged Niagara Falls residents, a New York City bus driver and others with possession and/or sale of cocaine and conspiracy to sell cocaine. Investigators and attorneys from the Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force worked with investigators from the Niagara Falls Police Department to compile evidence against a highly organized cocaine distribution ring alleged to have been headed by David Phelps, also known as D-Big, of Niagara Falls.

"The plague of illegal drugs affects local neighborhoods but is never truly local in nature," Cuomo said. "The drug supply comes from somewhere, and in this instance we see the flow into Niagara Falls coming from New York City and Rochester. It is truly a statewide problem. If we are to make a meaningful difference, local and statewide law enforcement agencies must work together. It is that cooperation that will have the greatest impact on the crime infecting Upstate communities and lead to successes like the indictment and arrests we are announcing today."

The indictment charges that Phelps, 35, was engaged in an enterprise to purchase cocaine from several sources reaching from Niagara Falls to New York City. Phelps would then add a cutting agent to the cocaine to increase the quantity and sell it to his co-conspirators. The co-conspirators would in turn sell the cut cocaine to their own customers. It is charged that Phelps was aided by Avanna Carr, and that the two ran their cocaine enterprise from a residence at 1415 22nd Street in Niagara Falls. Phelps is also alleged to have sold cocaine from additional locations throughout the city, including 1155 Fairfield Avenue and 1626 Ontario Street. The indictment charges that Phelps procured cocaine in large quantities from suppliers in Rochester and New York City, as well as from local cocaine dealers, including Willie Scott, 27, and another Niagara Falls resident.

Niagara Falls Police Superintendent John Chella said, "Today's indictment and arrests underscore how effective law enforcement forces can be when working cooperatively with combined resources. These arrests effectively shut down a major drug dealing operation in Niagara Falls and should also illustrate to all New Yorkers Attorney General Cuomo's commitment to stopping the spread of similar operations all across Upstate."

Niagara County District Attorney Matthew Murphy said, "I want to thank Attorney General Cuomo and his Organized Crime Task Force for their invaluable work in the region. They are an invaluable partner in our ongoing fight against crime here in Niagara County."

On August 17, 2007, after several months of intensive investigation, including electronic and physical surveillance, a search warrant was issued by Niagara Falls City Court Judge Robert M. Restaino for Phelps' and Carr's residence on 22nd Street. The defendants were tracked to New York City by the Attorney General's OCTF where they were watched as they met with New York City MTA bus driver Anthony Barnett on board a bus he was operating marked "out-of-service." Phelps was observed leaving the bus with a brown paper bag believed to contain approximately eight ounces of cocaine. Phelps and Carr returned to their Niagara Falls residence. Seized during the raid after their return was 6.5 ounces of cocaine, with a street value of approximately $25,000 dollars, 113 marijuana plants found growing in the attic, and drug paraphernalia, including masks, grinders, cutting agents, and packaging material.

Phelps and Carr were arrested at the time of the search and charged in an indictment with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree. Both are in the custody of the Niagara County Sheriff. Today's indictment supersedes the previous indictment and charges Phelps and Carr with several additional counts of Conspiracy and Criminal Sale and Possession of Controlled Substances. In addition to Phelps and Carr, today's indictment charges an additional 20 persons with Conspiracy, Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance, and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance.

In total, investigators seized 9.5 ounces of cocaine and estimated the Phelps distributed between 1.5 and 2 pounds of cocaine each month.

Arrested yesterday and today under the indictment are:

  • David Phelps, 35, Niagara Falls
  • Jermaine McDougald, 25, Niagara Falls
  • Willie Scott, 27, Niagara Falls
  • Anthony Barnett, 43, Long Island New York
  • Avanna Carr, 27, Niagara Falls
  • Arthur Sitzer, 37, Rochester N.Y.
  • Grady Peterson, 34, Niagara Falls
  • Stephen Palmeri, 31, Niagara Falls
  • John Parker, 37, Niagara Falls
  • Keith Crossley, 34, Niagara Falls
  • Carl Zimmerman, 29, Niagara Falls
  • Scott Goodman, 31, Sanborn
  • Shawn Harris, 29, Sanborn N.Y.
  • Michelle Obermuller, 28, Niagara Falls
  • Michael Johnston, 33, Niagara Falls
  • Harold Davidson, 31, Niagara Falls
  • Jay Davis, 30, Niagara Falls
  • Erica Davis, 27, Niagara Falls
  • Darren Ayrhart, 39, Middleport New York
  • Three others of those indicted remain fugitives

McDougald, Scott, Sitzer, and Barnett are charged as the cocaine suppliers of the network. The other co-conspirators are alleged to have purchased cocaine from Phelps for re-sale to their own individual customers.

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

The investigation was led by Supervising Investigator Peter J. Talty of the Organized Crime Task Force, together with Captain Morris Shamrock, Lt. Kelly Rizzo and Detective Joseph Giaquinto of the City of Niagara Falls Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Deputy Attorneys General Kevin Kane, Robert Lee, and Patricia Carrington of the New York State Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force's Buffalo Office, under the supervision of Christopher Prather, the Deputy Attorney General in charge of the Task Force. The Attorney General gratefully acknowledges the substantial assistance provided by the Niagara Falls Police Department, under the leadership of Niagara Falls Police Superintendent John Chella, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector General Barry Kluger.


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