Attorney General James Takes Down Major Multistate Drug Trafficking Operation
16 Individuals Indicted for Roles in Trafficking Cocaine and
Opioids Throughout New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania
Latest Action in AG James’ Efforts to Combat Opioid
Crisis and Keep Streets Clean from Dangerous Drugs
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced the indictment of 16 individuals for their roles in trafficking prescription opioids and cocaine in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. As alleged in two indictments — unsealed in Kings County Supreme Court today — the individuals sold tens of thousands of prescription oxycodone pills, worth approximately $500,000, and more than 500 grams of cocaine. The investigation led to the recovery of more than 2,600 oxycodone pills, 300 grams of cocaine, and thousands of dollars in illicit narcotics proceeds.
“Dangerous drugs have long ravaged our communities and devastated the lives of many individuals throughout our state and nation,” said Attorney General James. “From going after the manufacturers and distributors fueling the opioid crisis, to cracking down on those who are illegally trafficking and distributing opioids and other drugs throughout our state, we are tackling this crisis from every angle to prevent death and destruction. Today’s takedown is yet another major action to keep our streets clean from these drugs and hold accountable those who put New Yorkers in harm’s way just to line their pockets. We are grateful to our partners in law enforcement for their invaluable support and shared committed in protecting our communities.”
Today’s takedown was the result of a 20-month investigation led by the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) with support from the Warwick Police Department and the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. The investigation — dubbed “Operation Dirty Laundry” due to the frequent reference to illegal prescription pills for sale as “shirts” — included hundreds of hours of physical and covert surveillance, court-authorized wiretapping of phones, and review of subpoena compliance including phone and Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement records.
During the electronic surveillance, the defendants and their co-conspirators frequently utilized coded and cryptic terminology in an attempt to disguise their illicit activities, such as referring to oxycodone pills by colors or size (“big ones,” “white shirts,” “blue shirts,” and “3-0s”) and cocaine as “the girl” or “the Pablo.” Over the course of the investigation, authorities seized approximately 2,600 oxycodone pills, 300 grams of cocaine, digital scales, a money counter, and more than $12,000 in cash.
“This case is a perfect example of the cooperation required between local departments, the Attorney General's Office, and the Waterfront Commission's personnel to fight the trafficking of illegal opioids and cocaine across jurisdictional boundaries,” said Warwick Police Chief Thomas McGovern.
“The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor remains committed to working with all its law enforcement partners to eliminate the scourge of illegal narcotics in the Port District and elsewhere in the metropolitan area,” said Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor New York Commissioner Paul Weinstein. “We thank Attorney General Letitia James for her work on this case and her continued partnership in keeping the public safe.”
As outlined in the first indictment, 15 defendants are charged for their roles in three conspiracies in which the defendants sold and possessed oxycodone pills and cocaine throughout New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. As alleged in the first conspiracy, Neil Garone a/k/a “Beanz” (a New York City Department of Sanitation employee) and Alex Calatozzo a/k/a “Houdin” operated an oxycodone pill distribution network in and around Brooklyn and Staten Island. They sold a large quantity of the oxycodone pills to Ben Butler, who then resold them in Massachusetts, where traffickers can sell oxycodone pills for a higher profit. Garone and Calatozzo bought oxycodone pills from various individuals, including Rosario Caruso a/k/a “The Italian Kid” and John McAvoy a/k/a “Henry.” McAvoy, on several occasions, acquired the oxycodone pills from Pennsylvania and then trafficked the pills back to Calatozzo for resale.
In the second conspiracy, Joseph Mignano conspired with Vincent Posa, Frederick Zittel, and Birol Kagitcioglu to sell oxycodone pills in Brooklyn and Staten Island. Mignano sourced the oxycodone pills from suppliers such as Posa, Zittel, and Kagitcioglu for resale to Garone, Anthony Romano, and Joseph Romano. Garone also sold the pills to Andrew Mason.
In the third conspiracy, Garone and Calatozzo sold cocaine to Millan Ceneus, who traveled from Massachusetts to purchase the cocaine. Calatozzo would store, package, and prepare the cocaine before Garone would meet Ceneus at Calatozzo’s residence in Brooklyn to complete the sale.
This indictment contains 473 counts of various felony narcotics offenses, including charges against Neil Garone, Alex Calatozzo, and Ben Butler for Operating as a Major Trafficker, which carries a mandatory life sentence in state prison, and various counts of Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (class A and B felonies), as well as Conspiracy to commit those crimes.
In the second Indictment, Andrew Mason is charged with conspiring with Garone and Thomas Schillizzi to purchase oxycodone pills for resale in Brooklyn. This second indictment contains 43 counts of felony narcotics offenses, including various counts of Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (class A and B felonies).
Those charged in today’s two indictments include:
NEIL GARONE a/k/a “Beanz,” 34 years old, Staten Island, New York
ALEX CALATOZZO a/k/a “Houdin,” 38 years old, Brooklyn, New York
BEN BUTLER, 32 years old, Randolph, Massachusetts
JOSEPH MIGNANO a/k/a “Migs,” 61 years old, Brooklyn, New York
VINCENT POSA, 51 years old, Brooklyn, New York
JOSEPH ROMANO, 28 years old, Staten Island, New York
ANTHONY ROMANO, 32 years old, Staten Island, New York
FREDERICK ZITTEL, 53 years old, Brooklyn, New York
BIROL KAGITCIOGLU, 72 years old, Brooklyn, New York
JOHN MCAVOY a/k/a “Henry,” 39 years old, Brooklyn, New York
ROSARIO CARUSO a/k/a “The Italian Kid,” 38 years old, Staten Island, New York
MIA CHAMBERS a/k/a “Mimi,” 37 years old, Brooklyn, New York
ANDREW MASON a/k/a “Roberto,” 24 years old, Brooklyn, New York
PAUL EKERLING, 39 years old, Toms River, New Jersey
MILLAN CENEUS a/k/a “Millz,” 36 years old, Brockton, Massachusetts
THOMAS SCHILLIZZI, 45 years old, Staten Island, New York
Today’s takedown marks the latest major drug bust in the OAG’s Suburban and Upstate Response to the Growing Epidemic (SURGE) Initiative, a law enforcement effort that brings together state and local law enforcement to target New York’s growing — and often violent — heroin, opioid, and narcotics trafficking networks. Since launching in 2017, SURGE has taken 738 alleged traffickers off the streets.
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Attorney General James would also like to thank the Randolph, Massachusetts Police Department, the New York State Department of Health’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, the New York City Department of Investigation, the United States Department of Health and Human Services – Office of the Inspector General, and the DEA Diversion Task Force for their assistance with the investigation.
The investigation was led by OAG OCTF Detectives Brian Fleming and Brad Farrell, under the supervision of Supervising Detective Paul Grzegorski and Deputy Chief John McManus with the assistance of former OCTF Senior Legal Analyst Julianna Siklos. The OAG’s Investigations Division is led by Chief Investigator Oliver Pu-Folkes.
The case is being prosecuted by OAG OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General Jason Navia, under the supervision of Downstate OCTF Deputy Chief Lauren Abinanti, and overseen by Deputy Attorney General in Charge of OCTF Nicole Keary. The Division for Criminal Justice is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado, and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.