34 Charged In Rockland County Drug Sweep Following Eleven-Month Undercover Investigation
Drugs, Weapons and Cash Seized In Multi-Agency Law Enforcement Crackdown Dubbed “Operation Deadliest Catch”; Defendants Face Up To Fifteen Years In Prison
APR 7 -- Special Agent-in-Charge John P. Gilbride, Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Field Division and Rockland County District Attorney Thomas P. Zugibe, joined by police chiefs from several county police departments, today announced the filing of criminal charges against 34 individuals for selling powdered and crack cocaine and heroin on the streets of Rockland County. The arrests with seventeen indictments are the result of an eleven-month undercover narcotics probe dubbed “Operation Deadliest Catch.”
The far-reaching investigation was initiated in May, 2009 with information developed through a confidential source. During the next several months, undercover detectives from the Rockland County Narcotics Task Force conducted court-authorized wiretap surveillance of several telephones that were identified as being used by the suspected drug dealers. Pursuant to those wiretaps and other physical surveillance, detectives uncovered evidence of regular sales of cocaine and heroin to a large number of customers in nearly every Rockland County town.
“Today’s arrests are a testament to the DEA’s commitment to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking rings. Without the continued partnership of the DEA and our fellow law enforcement agencies, these arrests wouldn’t have been possible,” said Wilbert L. Plummer, Associate Special Agent-in-Charge, DEA, NYFD.
Rockland County District Attorney Zugibe said, “Today’s arrests not only underscore the continuing commitment of prosecutors and police to improving the quality of life in the county, but send a message to those who flood the streets with illegal drugs that drug use and drug-related violence will not be tolerated and will be vigorously prosecuted.”
Investigators intercepted a staggering 84,000 communications between suspected drug dealers during the period. Most defendants were overheard ordering cocaine from their supplier or arranging cocaine sales to clients.
The defendants, who range in age from 22 to 53, had several cocaine suppliers, including Jairo Taveras, a known drug trafficker in the Bronx.
“Operation Deadliest Catch” recovered approximately seven pounds of cocaine, one hundred grams of crack cocaine, one ounce of heroin, over $100,000 in cash and several weapons, including two .38 caliber handguns, a Tech 11 machine gun and a bulletproof vest.
Said Zugibe, “Cocaine and heroin can have a devastating effect on our community. Illegal drug trafficking and weapons charges are serious offenses that are often at the root of many additional and violent crimes in our towns and villages. The result of this joint investigation will make Rockland County a safer place for all residents”
The 34 defendants are variously charged with numerous counts of felony criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a controlled substance and conspiracy, each punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.
The investigation continues into the reach and scope of the illicit operation and further arrests may be made.