Attorney General Cuomo's Upstate Guns, Gangs And Drugs Initiative Targets Schenectady Heroin And Cocaine Ring

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 8, 2008) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the indictment of 24 New Yorkers accused of taking part in a highly organized narcotics distribution organization operating in the Capitol District and supplied from Long Island.

In the indictment unsealed in Schenectady County Court yesterday, a Grand Jury charged 24 people with possession and/or sale of narcotics and conspiracy to sell narcotics. The majority of arrests stemming from the Indictment occurred this morning throughout the Capitol Region. The indictment is the result of a multi-agency investigation known as “Operation Slim Chance,” led by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF).

Over $160,000 in heroin and cocaine was seized during the Attorney General’s investigation, along with several firearms and drug paraphernalia.

“This drug ring is alleged to be more organized and sophisticated than most, but the end result of all drug dealing is the same: deadly narcotics working their way into our communities for an illegal profit,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “It takes an organized front to combat the scourge, and I’m proud to work with various law enforcement entities to help better our neighborhoods.”

The indictment charges that Kerry Kirkem, 40, and Oscar Mora, 30, were in charge of a highly sophisticated Schenectady-based drug organization that obtained its cocaine and heroin from Long Island supplier Maximo “Max” Doe.

According to the indictment, the drug ring allegedly was operating on a highly organized level, including “mules” responsible for driving cocaine and heroin from Long Island to Schenectady, a manager who supervised numerous dealers and the dealers who sold cocaine and heroin during “shifts” at various locations throughout Schenectady County. The drugs were sold throughout and beyond the Capital Region, including Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, Columbia, Montgomery and Warren Counties.

The Grand Jury charged Kirkem, Mora, Doe and Gary Cherny with the Possession and/or Sale of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree (class A-I felony), a crime punishable by up to 24 years in prison. Stephen Torres and Lizvette Brenes were also indicted on the charge of Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree (A-I felony), which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Misty Gallo was indicted on an A-II felony drug possession charge and faces up to 10 years in prison. The remaining defendants are charged with varying levels of narcotics related felonies, with most defendants facing up to 12 years in prison.

“The flow of illegal drugs into the capital region - and all of upstate New York - has been a primary focus of my Office’s Organized Crime Task Force,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “My Upstate Guns, Gangs and Drugs initiative exists for this reason - to coordinate multiple law enforcement agencies in creating the most effective crime fighting force to protect our neighborhoods.”

Attorney General Cuomo’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) led the 13-month, multi-agency investigation after being referred to it by the New York State Police’s Community Narcotics Enforcement Team (CNET). , which then led a 13-month, multi-agency investigation known as “Operation Slim Chance.” The investigation involved OCTF, CNET, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office and the City of Schenectady Police.

Superintendent of the New York State Police Harry J. Corbitt said, “This year-long investigation began with traffic stops by vigilant Troopers and developed into a large scale, tireless, multi-agency narcotics investigation. These significant drug seizures and arrests will noticeably impact the illegal narcotics trafficking in the Schenectady area.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge John P. Gilbride said, “Today’s arrests mark a victory for law enforcement and have dismantled a cocaine and heroin trafficking organization from the top to the bottom. Operating like a corporation, this organization peddled poison throughout the streets of our capital region. I am pleased to announce that this organization has been put out of business and their doors have been permanently shut.”

Schenectady County District Attorney Robert M. Carney said, “Because of the dedication and hard work of a talented group of investigators and attorneys and the willingness of the Attorney General to commit these resources, a significant narcotics organization that operated out of the north side of the City of Schenectady and served the greater capital region has been put out of business. Most importantly, the supplier of this organization from Long Island now faces prosecution in Schenectady County. I am pleased to have assisted Attorney General Cuomo and his staff in this important investigation and look forward to continued collaboration to protect our community.”

Schenectady Mayor Brian U. Stratton said, “These arrests send a clear message that drug dealers have no place in our city. I applaud Attorney General Cuomo’s efforts in combating the scourge of drugs that has invaded too many municipalities across the state. Thanks to the combined efforts and hard work of his office, the Schenectady Police Department, the DEA and the State Police, Operation ‘Slim Chance’ delivered a crippling blow to the illegal drug market. I welcome Attorney General Cuomo’s Upstate Guns, Gangs and Drugs Initiative to our city and thank him for leading this effort.”

Assistant Chief of Police for the City of Schenectady Michael J. Seber said, “This investigation is a perfect example of great communication between Law Enforcement Agencies. Based upon a traffic stop outside of Schenectady, investigators were able to expose a mid to upper level drug dealing operation within the City of Schenectady. It is that cooperation between agencies that will lead to future investigations which benefit the residents of the city.”

The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General Michael Sharpe, under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Christopher Prather, who is in charge of OCTF. The investigation was handled by Investigator Jeff Sauter, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Billy Charles. Attorney General Cuomo thanked CNET Investigator Christopher Gilroy and DEA Special Agent Terry Dunlap for initiating and participating in the investigation.

Those indicted and their alleged roles include:

  • Kerry Kirkem, 40, of VanVranken Ave. in Schenectady and Guideboard Road in Waterford, who was in charge of the organization (in custody)
  • Oscar Mora, 30, of Plank Road, Waterford, also in charge of the organization (in custody)
  • Maximo Doe, 29, of Felway Drive, Coram, the Long Island source of supply
  • Hazel Nader, 42, of University Place, Schenectady, the manager in charge of supervising the workers (dealers) (in custody)
  • Wilfred Cordero, 30, of Hegeman St., Schenectady, a worker
  • Daniel Evans, 26, Schenectady, a worker (in custody)
  • Misty Gallo, 23, of Huron Court, Schenectady, a worker and a mule (in custody)
  • Hector Gomez, 24, of Foster Avenue, Schenectady, a worker (in custody)
  • Ronald Hughes, 25, of Huron Court, Schenectady, a worker
  • Lisa Kaczmarek, 48, of Roma St., Schenectady, a freelance dealer affiliated with the organization (in custody)
  • Lisa Perkins, 33, of Hegeman Street, Schenectady, a worker (in custody)
  • Melford Perkins, 36, of Hegeman Street, Schenectady, a worker (in custody)
  • Kareem Reid, 26, of Foster Avenue, Schenectady, a worker (in custody)
  • Todd Rodriguez, 21, Schenectady, a worker (in custody)
  • Miles Smith, 20, Schenectady, a worker (in custody)
  • Michelle Hernandez Soto, 30, of University Place, Schenectady, a worker (in custody)
  • Israel Torres, 25, of University Place, Schenectady, a worker (in custody)
  • Michael Torres, 21, of University Place, Schenectady, a worker (in custody)
  • Steven Torres, 22, of Maplewood Ave., Schenectady, a worker and a mule (in custody)
  • Lizvette Brenes, 33, of Maplewood Ave., Schenectady, a mule (in custody)
  • Gary Cherny, 25, of Avenue A., Schenectady, a worker and maintained a stash house (in custody)
  • Leah Armenia, 25, of Union St., Schenectady, maintained a stash house (in custody)
  • Bernard Ryan, 46, of Clement Road, Schenectady, responsible for “cooking” crack cocaine for the organization (in custody)
  • Christopher Toogood, 24, of Union Street, Schenectady, allowed the organization to sell drugs from his residence at 1228 Union Street, Apartment #1, in Schenectady (in custody)
Seized during the investigation:
  • More than 58 ounces of cocaine with an estimated street value of $130,000
  • More than 1,600 bags of heroin with an estimated street value of more than $33,000
  • A semi-automatic assault rifle, similar to an AK-47
  • A .380 caliber handgun
  • Numerous rounds of ammunition
  • Five vehicles
  • Several safes
  • Drug packaging materials and cutting agents
  • Two cocaine grinders
  • Two cocaine strainers
  • A heroin “stamping” kit
  • $22,549 in cash

The organization allegedly used several different “stash houses,” where they would store narcotics and weapons, including two in Schenectady:

  • 1822 Ave. A, 3rd floor apartment
  • 206 Union St., apartment 9

Several residences were allegedly used as drug sale locations, including:

  • 1044 University Place, apartments 4 and 5
  • 514 Hegeman St., 2nd and 3rd floor apartments
  • 2 Huron Court, apartment 118
  • 1652 VanVranken Ave., first floor apartment
  • 1228 Union St., apartment 1

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