Law Enforcement Operation Takes Down Alleged
Southwestern Connecticut Drug Trafficking
JUN 17 -- Steven W. Derr, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Field Division; David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut; Harry W. Rilling, Chief of the Norwalk Police Department; and Robert Nivakoff, Chief of the Stamford Police Department, today announced that 19 individuals have been arrested on various federal narcotics-distribution charges related to the large-scale distribution of cocaine, crack cocaine, and heroin in southwestern Connecticut and New York City.
Yesterday, a federal grand jury in New Haven returned an indictment charging 18 of the defendants. An additional defendant was arrested today on a federal criminal complaint.
The charges stem from an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation dubbed “Operation Hammertime,” a four-month investigation that was initiated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, with substantial assistance provided by the Norwalk Police Department’s Special Services Squad and the Stamford Police Department’s Narcotics and Organized Crime Squad. The investigation was funded in significant part through the United States Attorney’s Office OCDETF and Anti-Gang initiatives, and the case is being prosecuted by members of the United States Attorney’s Office OCDETF and Gang Units.
According to statements made in today in Bridgeport federal court during the initial presentment of many of the defendants, the investigation included the use of court-authorized wiretaps. Through the wiretaps, investigating officers identified and dismantled a large drug-trafficking organization allegedly headed by GAVIN HAMMETT.
In association with the arrest of the defendants, law enforcement officers seized more than one kilo of cocaine, more than 200 grams of crack cocaine, multiple bundles of heroin, more than $100,000 in cash, seven vehicles and one firearm.
Charged in the indictments with various counts related to the distribution of narcotics are the following individuals:
HAMMETT and VARGAS are charged with conspiring to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine base (“crack cocaine”). If convicted of this charge, each faces a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years, a maximum term of life imprisonment and a fine of up to $4 million. FILES, GREEN, and HANDY are charged with conspiring to distribute more than five grams of cocaine base. If convicted of this charge, each of these defendants faces a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of five years, a maximum term of 40 years, and a fine of up to $2 million. The filing of a second-offender notice under the federal statute for having a prior felony drug conviction would double the mandatory minimum penalties.
HAMMETT, BROWN, McNICHOL, VARGAS, and LUIS LNU are charged with conspiring to distribute more than 500 grams of powder cocaine. If convicted of this charge, they face a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of five years, a maximum term of 40 years, and a fine of up to $2 million. The filing of a second-offender notice under the federal statute for having a prior felony drug conviction would double the mandatory-minimum penalties.
BEST, DOWNING, MICHAEL HAMMETT, JONES, SAMAS, SINGLETON, SMALLS, TREGLIA, and VANBRACKLE are charged with conspiring to distribute a quantity of cocaine. LUIS LNU and MESSAM are charged with conspiring to distribute a quantity of heroin. If convicted of these charges, each defendant faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $1 million.
In addition, JERRY LIVINGSTON, 48, from Norwalk, was arrested today on a criminal complaint charging him with conspiring to distribute five grams or more of cocaine base and 500 grams or more of powder cocaine.
U.S. Attorney Fein commended the federal and local law enforcement agents and officers who conducted this collaborative investigation.
“The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to working with our law enforcement partners in Norwalk and Stamford to combat drug trafficking and related activity in order to improve the quality of life in our communities,” stated U.S. Attorney Fein.
“DEA and our law enforcement partners are determined to keep our cities free of the misery that drugs bring to the community,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Derr. “We believe that, as a result of this joint law enforcement action, these neighborhoods are safer today.”
“The Norwalk Police Department is grateful to our federal partners from the DEA and our partners from the Stamford PD,” stated Norwalk Police Chief Rilling. “These high level joint operations are very effective in removing the criminal element from our communities. Norwalk will certainly be a safer place as a result of this operation.”
“The coordinated and tactical efforts of the City of Stamford PD and our law enforcement partners have maximized the impact of regional narcotic distribution investigations,” stated Stamford Police Chief Nivakoff.
U.S. Attorney Fein stressed that the charges are not evidence of guilt. The charges are only allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s DEA’s Bridgeport High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force (composed of members of the Bridgeport, Stamford, Norwalk and Stratford Police Departments, and the Connecticut State Police), along with substantial participation by members of the Norwalk and Stamford Police Departments. The United States Marshals Service and the Bridgeport Police Department assisted in the arrests of the defendants today.