MASSENA - Citizens packed the Massena Town Hall Thursday afternoon as a host of federal, state and county law enforcement officials joined United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian to announce the arrest of 11 individuals on federal drug trafficking charges.
Mr. Hartunian announced the news at a press conference held in meeting room 30 in the town hall before a large group of media and residents.
Today in the early morning hours, approximately 100 law enforcement officers and 15 federal, state, local and tribal agencies arrested 10 individuals on drug trafficking charges. On the superseding indictment... (it) charges 12 people with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute over 500 grams of cocaine, over 28 grams of cocaine base, which is crack cocaine, and heroin, in Franklin County, St. Lawrence County, and Clinton County, Mr. Hartunian said. The indictment is unsealed as to 3 defendants from New York City and 8 defendants who reside here in and around the Massena area.
A 12th person is charged in the indictment but has not yet been arrested.
Patrick R. Problem Lloyd, 25, and Jon Garcia, 22, both listing New York City addresses but frequent visitors to Massena, along with Paul Williams, aka Cash,30, of Massena, are already in custody on state charges. The remaining eight were arrested Thursday morning.
In addition, four search warrants were executed in Massena today resulting in the seizures of handguns, cocaine, and heroin, Mr. Hartunian explained Thursday afternoon.
Two of the individuals - Justin Brailsford, 25, of Massena and Garcia - were also charged with possessing with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin on or about July 6, 2013, in Clinton County. Meanwhile, Williams was charged with possessing with intent to distribute over 28 grams of cocaine base on or about Aug. 8, 2013 in Clinton County.
Mr. Hartunian noted that the charges in the indictment are accusations and the defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty.
It is important to note certainly that at this stage, these are merely charges. Charges are accusations and the defendants will be presumed innocent until proven guilty, he said.
Because of an alleged prior drug felony conviction, Lloyd faces a mandatory minimum 10 year prison sentence with a maximum sentence that includes a life term and a $10 million fine. Each of the other defendants could face a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years behind bars and a maximum of 40 years and a $5 million fine.
Mr. Hartunian added, The St. Lawrence River Valley is the intersection of the front line for border security and the outer reach of big city drug suppliers who travel north seeking new and expanded markets. This case illustrates how vigilance and collaboration can combat threats to our communities, as a multitude of federal, state, local, and tribal agencies worked together to dismantle a ring that brought in and distributed cocaine, crack, and heroin, and employed firearms and violence. The success of our effort to preserve public safety and the idyllic charm of the area depends on our shared commitment to robust enforcement, deterrence, and prevention. Special Agent-in-Charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) James C. Spero also spoke on the team work employed by the agencies.
While the violence and street-level dealing that comes with drug trafficking are local crimes, the criminal networks behind them stretch to other cities, other states and other countries, he said. To effectively attack these networks takes a team effort. An outstanding team investigation by our Border Enforcement Security Task Force is what led to todays arrests and is what will lead to the complete dismantling of these criminal organizations.
The investigation revealed that this organization obtained large quantities of cocaine, heroin, and crack from suppliers in New York City and used couriers to transport the drugs to Massena, where the organizations distribution network sold ounce and gram quantities of the drugs to wholesale drug dealers and drug users in the area. Members of the organization engaged in acts of intimidation and violence.
Approximately 380 grams of cocaine, about 377 grams of heroin, nearly 100 grams of crack cocaine, 5 handguns, and $11,000 in total were seized Thursday according to Mr. Hartunian.
The superseding indictment is the result of a year-long Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation led by HSI, the Massena Police Department, the Saint Lawrence County Sheriffs Office, and the New York State Police. The District Attorneys of Clinton, Franklin, and St. Lawrence Counties, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Department, the United States Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine, the United States Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Potsdam Police Department, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the New York Attorney Generals Office, the Oneida Indian Nation Police, and the United States Border Patrol assisted in the investigation.
The defendants are expected to have their primary appearances in federal court in Plattsburgh Friday.
Lloyd was at the top of the leaderboard among the defendants charged with federal counts on Thursday. Lloyd and his girlfriend, Miranda M. Green, 18, Massena, allegedly tried to kidnap another Massena resident, Catherine A. Berry, 17, of 66 Liberty Ave., on Feb. 16.
Village police had charged Lloyd with a misdemeanor count of second-degree menacing following an investigation into an incident that took place at 3:30 p.m. April 11 at the Spruce Street residence of Albert Brossoit and Felicity Caskinette. Lloyd allegedly drove another man to the Spruce Street residence and the passenger in his vehicle allegedly pointed a handgun at Ms. Caskinette.
Acting Village Justice James M. Crandall noted at the time of that arraignment that Lloyds criminal history revealed he had cited for failing to appear in court as directed in six different occasions and noted he had several charges pending in various courts in the state, including high level felony cases pending in St. Lawrence and Franklin county courts. He said Lloyds arrest on the menacing count violated his release status on those felony charges.
Witnesses told police Lloyd drove a second man to 27 1/2 Spruce St. at approximately 3 p.m. following Ms. Caskinette when she drove into her residence. I looked out and saw a black Charger, the one Problem drives, and then I saw this black guy ... pull a black and silver handgun out and point it at Felicity. Then they took off, Mr. Brossoit noted in the statement he signed for police.
Lloyd had been the reported victim of an incident in March in Massena.
Devian J. Fletcher, 19, stands accused of shooting at a car carrying Lloyd and Green in Massena on March 27. He was indicted on charges of first-degree assault, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and first-degree reckless endangerment.
An associate, Katelynn J. Javier, 19, was indicted on charges of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, tampering with physical evidence and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
Lloyd and Green are facing charges in the alleged attempted abduction Feb. 16 of Catherine A. Berry, 18, of 66 Liberty Ave., who Mr. Fletcher said was a friend.
Investigators have described Lloyd and Fletcher as New York City men who moved to the area and have become rivals in Massenas growing drug trade. Following his arrest, Fletcher told police that Lloyd previously had threatened to kill him, and that the shooting also was in response to the alleged kidnapping attempt.
Indictment papers filed in April listed Fletchers address as 66 Liberty Ave., the same as Ms. Berry. Police surrounded that property during a standoff following the March 27 incident.