International Drug Ring Charged
JUL 07 -- (PLATTSBURG, NY) - John P. Gilbride, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration joined United States Attorney Andrew T. Baxter to announce the unsealing of a superseding federal indictment charging 13 defendants with drug offenses. The indictment is the third one resulting from the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation dubbed Operation Iron Curtain.
The superseding indictment, filed June 10, 2009, charges Steven Sarti, Edward Kener, Richard Todd Adams, Zachary Gouchie, Anthony Plata, Fabrizio Papasodoro, Christopher Birkbeck, Charles Keyes, Jason Baldassare, Karl Bourassa, Olivier David, Andrey Nevsky, and John Belanger with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 846 (Count 1), and conspiracy to import more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 963 (Count 4). Steven Sarti, Edward Kener, Richard Todd Adams, Anthony Plata, Fabrizio Papasodoro, Zachary Gouchie, Charles Keyes, Olivier David, Andrey Nevsky, and John Belanger also are charged with conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(a)(2) (Count 2). Steven Sarti and Edward Kener are charged with conducting a continuing criminal enterprise in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 848 (Count 3).
Six defendants also are charged with possessing with intent to distribute marijuana, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841: Count 5 charges Richard Todd Adams with possessing with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana; Count 6 charges Zachary Gouchie, Karl Bourassa, and Anthony Plata with possessing with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana; Count 7 charges Christopher Birkbeck with possessing with intent to distribute marijuana; and Count 8 charges Jason Baldassare with possessing with intent to distribute marijuana. The superseding indictment includes a forfeiture allegation seeking a money judgment in the amount of $25,000,000.
The superseding indictment alleges that:
STEVEN SARTI was the principal leader and organizer for a large-scale drug trafficking organization that smuggles marijuana and currency across the United States-Canadian border for delivery to drug dealers in New York, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and elsewhere. ZACHARY GOUCHIE, EDWARD KENER, and JOHN BELANGER assisted SARTI in directing the movements of other members of the organization. KENER served as the central logistical coordinator for the organization, directing the movements of couriers employed by the organization. In addition to acting as a courier himself, BELANGER was responsible for recruiting, employing, and coordinating couriers, who typically used rental vehicles and traveled in tandem with "blocking" vehicles which scouted ahead for law enforcement, communicated potential problems to couriers, and intentionally violated traffic laws to protect couriers. The organization transported the marijuana in heat-sealed bags inside large duffle bags labeled with a number and customer identification or destination. The organization employed two primary means for smuggling marijuana across the border from Canada into the United States: (1) across the Saint Lawrence River and through RICHARD TODD ADAMS' compound in Snye, Quebec, on the Akewesasne Mohawk Indian territory; and (2) through a secluded wooded area near Churubusco, New York via couriers principally led by ANTHONY PLATA.
STEVEN SARTI, 23, of Brossard, Quebec, was arrested in Vermont on June 2009, and is being detained pending trial. The execution of warrants today resulted in the arrests of EDWARD KENER 31, of Weston Florida; JOHN BELANGER, 27, of Hartford, Connecticut; ZACHARY GOUCHIE, 24, of Montreal, Quebec; CHARLES KEYES, 23, of East Brookfield, Massachusetts; ANTHONY PLATA, 28, of Montreal, Quebec; OLIVER DAVID, 22, of Saint-Hebert, Quebec; JASON BALDASSARE, 21, of Saint Constant, Quebec; and KARL BOURASSA, 23, of Saint Jean, Quebec. RICHARD TODD ADAMS, 35, of Summerton, Ontario, ANDREY NEVSKY, 24, of Boston, Massachusetts, and FABRIZIO PAPSODORO, 22, of Brossard, Quebec, have not yet been arrested.
An indictment filed February 4, 2009, charges CHRISTOS CHRISSANTHOPOULUS and MATHIEU MARLEAU with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute approximately 25 kilograms of cocaine. MARLEAU pled guilty to the conspiracy charge on May 13, 2009, and awaits sentencing, presently scheduled for September 16, 2009. The potential penalties include imprisonment for from 10 years to life, a fine of up to $4 million, and supervised release for from 5 years to life. Both defendants are in federal custody.
An indictment filed March 12, 2009, charges ADREIN MPEKO NYANGWILA, DAVID LEVESQUE-GORDEAU, and YEVGEN SEMENKO with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. The potential penalties include imprisonment for up to 20 years to life, a fine of up to $1 million, and supervised release for from 3 years to life. All three defendants are released on $15,000 bond and other conditions pending trial, presently scheduled for September 21, 2009.
All three indictments are pending before Hon. Gary L. Sharpe, United States District Judge in Albany.
The indictments are the result of a two year investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, including the United States Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); the New York State Police; the Major Traffickers Strike Force in Franklin County, comprised of DEA, the State Police, the Border Patrol, ICE, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Franklin County District Attorney's Office; and the Adirondack Drug Task Force in Clinton County, comprised of DEA, the State Police, the Clinton County Sheriff's Department, and the Plattsburgh Police Department. Other participants in aspects of the investigation included law enforcement agencies and the United States Attorneys Offices in the Districts of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, the Southern District of Florida, and the Southern District of New York, and Canadian authorities. The cases in the Northern District of New York are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel C. Gardner.
United States Attorney Baxter thanked the law enforcement leaders and agencies for their collaborative efforts and diligence, which make cases that dismantle international drug smuggling and trafficking organizations possible.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy recently recognized the far-reaching impact of drug smuggling and trafficking through Clinton, Franklin, and St. Lawrence Counties by adding them to the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). The HIDTA program builds upon demonstrated federal, state, and local commitment to enhance the effectiveness of efforts to combat drug crime.
Inquiries may be directed to Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Grant C. Jaquith, the Chief of the Criminal Division for the Northern District of New York, at (518) 431-0247.