Two Ithaca-based Drug Rings Shut Down
ITHACA, NY (February 2, 2007) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo and Tompkins County District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson today announced that a Tompkins County Grand Jury indicted 32 people in connection with their involvement in two separate drug conspiracies operating in the Ithaca area. The indictments mark the culmination of a one and one-half year investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force, the New York State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team, and the City of Ithaca Police Department.
“Protecting the public is job one,” Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said. “Ithaca and Tompkins County are safer today than they were yesterday thanks to the hard work and tremendous job done by the Organized Crime Task Force, New York State Police, and Ithaca Police Department. But the battle goes on. The war on drugs and gangs requires constant vigilance and attention.”
Attorney General Cuomo has made fighting the scourge of upstate drug gangs, and their related crimes, a top priority of his administration. His Organized Crime Task Force, with its sophisticated surveillance and intelligence gathering capabilities, and other resources of his office will be used for effective partnerships with the upstate law enforcement community.
District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson said, “This was a complex investigation involving sophisticated eavesdropping, numerous search warrants, and close cooperation among different law enforcement agencies. The results of this work and cooperation mean that two drug gangs are out of business, two pounds of cocaine and ten thousand dollars have been seized, and our streets are safer.”
New York State Police Superintendent Wayne E. Bennett said, "The coordination, cooperation, and investigative persistence of the many law enforcement agencies responsible for these indictments sends a strong message to all those involved in the drug trade, that New York State will not tolerate those who bring drugs into our communities."
Ithaca Police Department Chief Lauren Signer said, “The Ithaca Police Department is happy that we can work with the generous resources of the state to solve local problems and keep our community safe.”
The larger of the two drug rings was allegedly operated by defendant Isaac Butler, 32, from Ithaca. Butler was indicted on a drug conspiracy charge and six other charges relating to the possession and sale of crack and powder cocaine, including a charge of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, a class A-I felony. If convicted of the most serious offense, Butler faces up to twenty-four years in state prison. A total of twenty-two people were indicted on eighty-six conspiracy and narcotics trafficking charges based upon their involvement in the Butler drug organization.
The other drug ring was allegedly operated by defendant Charlie Watford, 22, from Brooklyn. Watford was indicted on a drug conspiracy charge as well as nineteen other charges relating to the possession and sale of crack and powder cocaine. If convicted of the most serious offense, Watford faces up to fifteen years in state prison. A total of fifteen people were indicted on forty-five conspiracy and narcotics trafficking charges based upon their involvement in the Watford drug organization.
Over the course of the investigation, the participating law enforcement agencies executed numerous court-authorized eavesdropping and search warrants, which led to the seizure of approximately two pounds of cocaine and more than $10,000 in cash.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant Deputy Attorney General Michael Sharpe of the Organized Crime Task Force, under the supervision of Christopher Prather, the Deputy Attorney General in Charge of the Task Force, and by Assistant District Attorney Andrew McElwee, under the supervision of Tompkins County District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson.