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Post date: August 4 2015

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Indictments Against 20 Capital Area Residents, Including Former Watervliet Police Officer, In “Operation Trojan Horse” Drug Bust

State Investigators Seized More Than $114,000 In Cocaine And Heroin That Were Brought To The Capital Region From New York City And Sold In Albany, Rensselaer, And Saratoga Counties And Elsewhere

Investigation By The AG’s Organized Crime Task Force Also Netted A Former Watervliet Police Officer Who Allegedly Purchased Cocaine From His Marked Patrol Car While On-Duty

Schneiderman: We Will Not Tolerate The Sale Of Illegal Drugs And The Violent Crime That Comes With It

ALBANY  – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the indictments against 20 alleged members and associates of a Troy-based gang on charges they operated a high-volume drug trafficking ring. During the year-long investigation, investigators seized more than 1,000 grams of cocaine with an approximate street value of $100,000 and more than 100 bags of heroin and more than an ounce of raw heroin with an approximate street value of $14,000, according to the 249 counts in the felony indictments unsealed today in Rensselaer Supreme Court.

As outlined in the indictments, the narcotics distribution ring was operated out of Troy by a gang called the Young Gunnerz, the largest provider of cocaine, heroin, and illegal prescription drugs in the city. Gang members and their associates allegedly purchased large quantities of drugs from an unknown supplier in the Bronx, and then brought the narcotics back to Troy for distribution throughout Albany County, Rensselaer County, Saratoga County and elsewhere in and outside of New York State.

“We have zero tolerance for drug running and the violence that comes with it,” saidAttorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “If you deal in drugs in New York, we will come after you with the full force of the law. The year-long Operation Trojan Horse showed how powerful collaboration across multiple law enforcement agencies can be in combatting drug crimes in the Capital Region.”

"Thanks to the hard work and partnership of law enforcement at the state and local level, we are taking out a violent operation that was supplying dangerous drugs throughout the Capital Region,” New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D'Amico said. “We will continue to aggressively pursue criminals who profit from illegal drugs at the expense of the safety and security of our neighborhoods.”

State investigators also seized three handguns during the investigation. As outlined in indictments, members of the Young Gunnerz allegedly drove to Albany on April 19 and fired several shots at rival gang members in an attempt to intimidate them.

Nicholas Pontore, a former Watervliet police officer, was also charged in the indictment. Pontore, 29, allegedly provided protection for the drug ring and purchased cocaine from the Young Gunnerz on a nearly daily basis, sometimes while on-duty and in his marked police vehicle. Pontore resigned from the Watervliet police department on June 18, just days after the arrest of his primary contact with the Young Gunnerz. He is facing 1 count of conspiracy, 19 counts of official misconduct, 6 counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the 4th degree, and 13 counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the 7th degree.

As outlined in the indictments, evidence gathered by state investigators showed that Daquan Murray – a.k.a. “Benji Got the Juice” – was one of the alleged leaders of the distribution network and of the Young Gunnerz.

Below is the full list of individuals charged in the investigation:

·         Daquan Murray, a/k/a “Benji Got the Juice”, 21, Troy, NY        

·         Craige Centra, 23, Watervliet, NY

·         Derek Dunbar, a/k/a “D”, 18, Troy, NY    

·         Leamon Grady, 43, Troy, NY

·         Darnell Marable, a/k/a “Fatz”, 38, Troy, NY

·         Melanie Melendez, 25, Albany, NY

·         Asjmere Powell, a/k/a “Prime”, 28, Troy, NY

·         James Royer, “Jimmy”, a/k/a “BK”, 26, Troy, NY

·         Rashad Thomas,  a/k/a “Shotty”, 24, Troy, NY

·         Karrice Bowen, a/k/a “Auntie”, 38, Albany, NY

·         Jaquetta  Exum, 21, Albany, NY

·         Kenneth Ford, a/k/a “Kenny”, 25, Waterford, NY

·         Andrew Hernandez, a/k/a “A”, 18, Brooklyn, NY

·         Donald Kodadar, a/k/a “Donnie” “DJ”, 25, Watervliet, NY

·         Joshua Lewis, a/k/a “Shellz”, 25, Watervliet, NY                                   

·         Zyjee Lind, a/k/a “Fredo”, 21, Troy, NY   

·         Coty O’Keefe, 28, Cohoes, NY

·         Nicholas Pontore, 29, Watervliet, NY

·         Javen Smith, 17, Troy, NY

·         Thaddeus Steed, a/k/a “TJ”, 24, Troy, NY

The defendants face maximum sentences between 9 and 24 years in prison, depending on the individual’s criminal history. Mr. Pontore faces more than five years in prison.

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

The Organized Crime Task Force has now taken down 25 large drug trafficking gangs, made more than 580 felony narcotics arrests, and seized more than $1.5 million and more than 2,000 pounds of illegal drugs.

The investigation was conducted by OCTF Investigator Jonathon Molik, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator William Charles, and New York State Police Senior Investigator Daniel Kiley, under the supervision of Lt. Carla DiRenza, with the assistance of Albany Police Department, Troy Police Department, Watervliet Police Department, Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Office, and the Rensselaer and Albany County district attorneys.

The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General Michael Sharpe. Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff runs the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice is Kelly Donovan.