AG James Announces Sentencing of Drug Ring Leader Who Funneled Narcotics to Finger Lakes Region

Yvette King, Last of the Leaders of Heroin Trafficking Ring, Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison

TIOGA COUNTY – Attorney General Letitia James today announced the sentencing of Yvette King of Ithaca, for her central role in a drug trafficking ring that moved hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of fentanyl-laced heroin and other narcotics from New York City to the Finger Lakes Region. King also employed family members for her illicit operations, and following her indictment in 2017, fled New York and was apprehended last year in Texas. King was sentenced today by Tioga County Court Judge Gerald A. Keene to seven years in state prison followed by two years of post-release supervision, based upon her plea on June 15, 2020 to Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a class B felony.

“Let this serve as a loud and clear message: We will not tolerate anyone who profits off of peddling illicit drugs and put New Yorkers in harm’s way,” said Attorney General James. “My office remains committed to enforcing the law, and we will continue to hold accountable anyone that violates it, especially those who flood our communities with dangerous drugs. I thank our partners in law enforcement for their invaluable support and continued efforts to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers.”

The Attorney General’s investigation, dubbed “Operation Un-Wise,” involved hundreds of hours of physical surveillance and wiretapping, as well as conducting numerous search warrants in New York City, Ithaca, and Tioga County. During the course of the wiretapping, conspirators frequently utilized coded and cryptic terminology in an attempt to disguise their illicit narcotics trafficking, such as referring to the heroin that they were peddling as “movies.”

On March 12, 2017, members of law enforcement agencies conducted search warrants on various residences throughout New York state, including locations in Manhattan, Queens, Tompkins County, and King’s own residence in Tioga County. Among the items seized during the search included more than one kilogram of heroin, dozens of grams of cocaine, 14 handguns, three of which were found inside King’s residence, one MAC-11 machine pistol, and narcotics-related paraphernalia.

King was one of the top heroin sellers in the ring, in which she would purchase heroin from organization leaders and then resell the drugs throughout Ithaca. Additionally, King arranged for her cousin to sell heroin to customers on her behalf, and also transported cash from narcotics sales on her travels from Ithaca to New York City.

In May 2017, a Tioga County Grand Jury handed a 229-count indictment charging 31 defendants with crimes related to heroin trafficking. All individuals that were charged have now pled guilty.

Operation “Unwise” was an investigation led by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) as part of the Attorney General’s SURGE (Suburban and Upstate Response to the Growing Epidemic) Initiative, a targeted crackdown on New York’s growing — and often violent — heroin, opioid, and narcotics trafficking networks operating in upstate and suburban communities. Since it launched in April 2017, the Attorney General’s SURGE Initiative has taken 529 traffickers off the streets.

The Attorney General thanks the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office and the United States Marshall’s Office for their assistance in apprehending Ms. King. The investigation was directed by New York State Police and Ithaca Police Investigator Kevin McKenna, with the assistance of OCTF Senior Investigator John Monte and Assistant Chief Investigator John Sullivan, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Christopher Vasta. The Investigations Division is led by Chief Oliver Pu-Folkes. The Ithaca Police Department’s involvement was directed by Chief of Police Dennis Nayor.

The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General Andrew McElwee under the supervision of Upstate Deputy Bureau Chief Maria Moran. Nicole Keary is the Deputy Attorney General in Charge of OCTF. The Criminal Justice Division is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado.