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$500k In Heroin Seized, 27 Arrested In Massive Drug Bust Involving Albany

Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Some big names in New York law enforcement have announced the takedown of multi-state drug pipelines.

It's an impressive score: 27 defendants indicted, some $500,000 worth of heroin seized along with $50,000 worth of cocaine, thousands of illegal prescription narcotics and a cache of firearms. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox, and New York State Police Superintendent George Beach are calling "Operation Uptown Red Alert" "a blow in the fight against the heroin and opioid epidemic that continues to plague New York state, as well as the country as a whole."

“Operation Uptown Red Alert” focused on two major distribution rings: The first — codenamed “Uptown” — zeroed in on six suspects, accused of transporting cocaine from New York City to Albany for distribution and sale.

At the Albany County Courthouse last year, New York U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer joined Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple and other local law enforcement officials to call for emergency federal anti-drug trafficking funding to battle the heroin epidemic.  "Albany is situated between New York City, one of the main distribution points, and Vermont, which we all know is one of the country's epicenters for heroin abuse."

The second ring, codenamed “Red Alert,” involved least 21 individuals accused of sending heroin, cocaine and illegal prescription medication from New York City to Albany for distribution around the Capital Region, the Catskills,  Maine and Pennsylvania. Authorities seized more than 1,000 grams of bulk heroin capable of being turned into 50,000 bags of heroin with a potential street value of $500,000; and more than 1,000 illegal Oxycodone pills that were in route to Maine for distribution.

Over the course of the year-long investigation, which was led by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF), New York State Police, and the Albany Police Department, authorities seized:

  • More than two pounds of bulk heroin capable of being packaged into 50,000 bags of heroin to be sold on the street, giving the heroin an approximate street value of $5o0,000
  • More than 1 pound of bulk cocaine with an approximate street value of $50,000
  • 1,067 Oxycodone pills
  • 2 shotguns
  • 1 hand gun
  • Over $21,000 in cash
  • 7 MDMA (“Molly”) pills.
  • A homemade heroin kilogram press

Of the 27 people arrested, 17 are from the Capital Region. But Chief Cox tells Newschannel13 that doesn't solve the heroin problem:  "We take one supplier off the market and somebody else steps in, 'cos there's money."
Schumer said that 4.2 million Americans ages 12 and older reportedly have used heroin at least once. According to the sheriff, heroin availability and abuse has increased significantly in Albany County because it is more cost-effective. According to the police, heroin users in many nearby rural counties travel to Albany, where dealers sell the addictive narcotic for $10 per bag or $100 per bundle. "These people are killers. We know they're trying to make money, but they're killing people to make money."

And they're making that money even when incarcerated:  Chief Cox: "Closing the jail cell and hearing that click, that's not a win.  That's a complete failure. It's a societal failure."

And apparently a bigger failure in that the "Red Alert" included one individual who managed his own narcotics trafficking ring from behind bars while he was serving a prison term in Pennsylvania for an unrelated drug trafficking conviction.

Korey Holloway would allegedly arrange for the purchase of narcotics from prison and have his girlfriend pick them up and then sell them. At times, Holloway allegedly used 3-way calls from prison to discuss drug deals with defendant Juan Ramos, of Brooklyn, a supplier, and his girlfriend.

The ring includes three people charged with “Operating as a Major Trafficker”:

  • Diomedes Silfa, of Bronx, New York
  • Noemi Maldonado, of Brooklyn, New York
  • Juan Ramos of Brooklyn, New York

The three major traffickers allegedly arranged for heroin and cocaine to be transported from New York City to the Capitol Region and face mandatory life sentences.
The remaining defendants face maximum sentences between 9 and 24 years in prison, depending on the individual’s criminal history. 

NOTE:  The charges against the defendants are accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Those charged in the two indictments handed down include:

Noemi Maldonado, of Brooklyn, New York (Charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker)

Juan Ramos, of Brooklyn, New York (Charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker)

Diomedes Silfa, of Bronx, New York (Charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker)

Amber Best, of Allentown, Pennsylvania

Clifford Chesky, of Albany, New York

Scott Cross, of Freehold, New York

Carla Davis, of Albany, New York

Symphony Davis, of Rensselaer, New York

Christopher Demasi, of Cobleskill, New York

Charles Hall, of Albany, New York

Eric Hines, of Albany, New York

Korey Holloway, of Allentown, Pennsylvania

Elijah Johnson, of Troy, New York

Isaiah Johnson, of Albany, New York

Adrian Mattei, of Albany, New York

Lowell McGill, of Schenectady, New York

Michael Miller, of Albany, New York

Marlon Nesbeth, of Albany, New York

Pedro Pablo Ramirez, of Bronx, New York

Joseph Rozier, of Rensselaer, New York

Lachone Rozier, of Albany, New York

Joseph Russo, of Albany, New York

Jennifer Sablan, of Brooklyn, New York

Aliem Shabazz, of Albany, New York

Manuel Soto, of Cornwallville, New York

Neylon Wagner, of Albany, New York

Martin Wright, of Palermo, Maine

Several additional agencies participated in the investigation, including the New York National Guard Counterdrug Task Force, United States Department of Homeland Security, United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the New York Police Department, the United States Probation Office and the United States Marshalls Service.

The investigation was conducted by OCTF Investigator John Monte, Supervising Investigator William Charles, and personnel from the Albany Police Department and New York State Police.

"The New York State Police will continue to work in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Office as part of an aggressive strategy to target the networks that are bringing heroin and other dangerous narcotics into upstate communities," said New York State Police Superintendent George Beach. "The State Police will continue to work with local law enforcement and the Attorney General’s Office to shut these illegal operations down and put the perpetrators behind bars."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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