Drug ring suspects rolled up in state sweep

Albany-based trafficking allegedly included murder plot

February 5, 2013
Updated 8:28 p.m.
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This law enforcement poster shows the suspects arrested in the Operation North Star drug sweep.
This law enforcement poster shows the suspects arrested in the Operation North Star drug sweep.

— An alleged drug organization in the Capital Region came crashing down this week as the culmination of an 11-month joint investigation by state and local officials.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on Tuesday afternoon a 226-count indictment against 31 people, including Schenectady resident Andrew Smith, who was charged as a major drug trafficker. Charges against Smith, 26, stem from an allegation that he arranged to bring more than $75,000 worth of cocaine from the Bronx to the Capital Region for distribution.

U.S. Marshals Service deputies are on the trail of Smith, who fled to Jamaica in December, according to the Attorney General’s Office. The major trafficker charge carries a potential life sentence.

Under arrest

Those charged with taking part in a cocaine trafficking ring that reached from New York City to the Capital Region, with their street names

• Andrew Smith (“My Boy,” “World Boss,” “Gringo”), 26, Schenectady

• Luann Bennett (“Ma”), 51, of Albany

• Sean Bennett (“S-Dot”), 28, of Albany

• Nailon Blair ("Nace"), 36, of Schenectady

• Lequanda Bozeman (“Scar”), 29, of Albany

• Shaquel Brown (“Boogie”), 29, of Albany

• Emerald Cancer (“Sis”), 31, of Albany

• Latoya Cancer (“Chops”), 33, of Albany

• Henry Crawford, 25, of Albany

• David Crowley (“Rugs,” “D-Rugs,” “Dave”), 26, of Albany

• Luisa Cuesta, 49, of Rensselaer

• Karnell Gordon (“Aff,” “Blacks”), 27, of Albany

• Derick Harris (“Boo”), 35, of Albany

• Kareem Hood (“Barrie,” “G”), 23, of East Greenbush

• Joshua Hunter, 34, of Schenectady

• Rondell Jackson (“Diggity”), 33, of Albany

• Tony Jefferson, 58, Albany

• Demetris King, 26, Albany

• Norman Lewis (“Reese”), 33, of Albany

• Sandra Matos (“Sandy,” “Candy”), 43, of Albany

• Ishmael McCarthy, (“Black,” “Mad Black,” “Ish”), 24, of Albany

• Shamel McCarthy (“Belly”), 20, of Albany

• Ameek Nixon, 27, of Albany

• Tashon Robertson, 22, of Troy

• Shakir Redmon, 31, of Albany

• Kode Sealey (“Monster”), 29 of Albany

• Leequan Thomas (“Quan”), 17, of Albany

• Walter Turner, Jr. (“Smooth”), 43 of Albany

• Shawn Ubrich, 40, of Delmar

• Errol Williams (“Brody,” “E”), 22, of Albany

• Dasean Willis (“Killa,” “Kane,” “P”), 29, of Albany

The other defendants face felony charges of criminal sale and criminal possession of a controlled substance and conspiracy in the second degree in relation to the cocaine trafficking network, Schneiderman’s office said. As of Tuesday afternoon, 24 of the 31 people accused in the ring were in custody, authorities said.

“Today we have taken a significant violent criminal enterprise off our streets,” Schneiderman said.

Authorities believe the drug ring was responsible for distributing cocaine from New York City throughout Albany, Schenectady and Rensselaer counties.

“It started with a joint Albany police force [and] attorney general’s organized crime task force investigation of a major street level cocaine deal on the streets of Arbor Hill, but through old fashioned police work and covert wiretaps we determined this was a much more dangerous enterprise than it initially appeared,” Schneiderman said.

The joint investigation included the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force, the Albany Police Department, the New York State Police and Homeland Security Investigations, with the assistance of the National Guard Counterdrug Task Force, the U.S. Marshals Service, Rensselaer County Task Force, and Troy Police Department.

The investigation, which required investigators to listen to hundreds of hours of phone conversations, netted $200,000 worth of cocaine, more than $100,000 in cash from alleged cocaine sales and a handgun that was suspected to be intended for a murder.

Schneiderman said investigators heard of a murder plot through their wire taps and quickly determined the suspects were not boasting. “It was a detailed plan,” he said. That plan included hiding a gun in the wheel well of a car, according to the wire tap, and that is where investigators found the weapon when they acted to prevent the murder.

Albany residents Emerald Cancer, 31, and Rondell Jackson, 33, are alleged to have conspired to lure Santonieo Miller Jr. to a secluded location where he would be shot. Miller was told to go to the location to commit a robbery.

Authorities believe Cancer and Jackson had a drug related motive for the murder plot. They have both been charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico applauded the work of the investigators in preventing the killing while not disrupting the investigation.

Schneiderman stressed the complexity of this drug ring, noting that one of the defendants used eight cell phones in a seven-month period. He described it as a multi-layered conspiracy.

Albany Police Chief Steve Krokoff said the drug bust was born out of a recognition that the city of Albany needed to crack down on an increase in gun violence. He said they reached out to their partners in the state and were able to successfully take down a drug network that violently protected its business.

“They use those guns indiscriminately,” Krokoff said, acknowledging a seized weapon laid out on Tuesday. “They preyed on the people in the communities in which they lived.”

Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings credited Krokoff with recognizing the scope of this investigation early on. “When this started over 11 months ago, [he] had a handle on what was coming down and said, ‘You know this is a bigger picture than we realized,’ ” Jennings said. “And that’s why all the agencies have come together.”

In 2011, the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force, which was involved in this bust, was responsible for 262 arrests.

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February 5, 2013
3:26 p.m.
Will1960 says...

"These networks created a pipeline of illegal drugs from New York City to the Capital Region that polluted our communities. Operation North Star shut down this massive criminal enterprise and stopped the flow of these dangerous narcotics," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

I hardly believe that these law enforcement agencies have stopped the flow of these dangerous narcotics, anywhere in New York. Another massive, expensive (and useless) State led investigation targeting an upstate inner-city. Why haven't I heard of one these investigations that has stopped the flow of dangerous narcotics in Loudonville or Niskayuna? This story represents another example of law enforcement focusing its scant resources exclusively on the lowest hanging fruit. I count seven federal, state and city agencies involved with this investigation, including Homeland Security. And there's no mention or investigation of what this massive investigation cost the taxpayers of this state. When it comes to New York's drug war, law enforcement gets a blank check and a pass from the media that covers these investigations.
The drug war's self-fulling prophecy is to never solve our drug problem, just keep the human pipeline going that feeds our industrial prison complex.

February 5, 2013
3:26 p.m.
Will1960 says...
(This comment was removed by the site staff.)
February 5, 2013
6:35 p.m.
Root_Beer says...

Well I guess the welfare line just got longer cause all the babies Daddy's and a few of the mamas are not on the street any more and the babies still need milk. Grandma and Grandpa won't let the kids down, they will still get fed and clothed plus loved, maybe not Nikes and Hoodies just cause they can get a check for that, what they really need.. Maybe, just maybe a couple Grans will take the torch and do good for those kids. A child lost to the streets is an innocent soul caught up in the world of worthless parents who should never have had the Honor to call themselves parents!

February 6, 2013
12:33 p.m.
rsmall803 says...

and some wonder about profiling.

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