Alleged Drug Distribution Ring Busted in Montauk

Evidence presented by the Suffolk County District Attorney's office. Courtesy SCDA

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office on Thursday announced the arrest of 16 people and the seizure of about $100,000 in cash plus cocaine, marijuana, opioid pills and drug paraphernalia during a major takedown of an alleged drug distribution ring that was run out of several bars and restaurants in Montauk.

According to the SCDA, a multi-agency investigation that began in March found evidence that the 16 defendants frequently sold cocaine, oxycodone and other drugs to patrons of restaurants and bars such as Swallow East, 686 the Gig Shack, Shagwong Tavern, The Liar’s Saloon and O’Murphy’s Pub and Restaurant. The SCDA said many of the defendants are seasonal workers who were employed by those establishments and were living in rented houses or other housing provided by those employers, and the investigation revealed they allegedly used both the housing and the restaurants and bars to sell the drugs.

“Year-round residents in Montauk have been voicing their concerns for years about the prolific drug dealing in their community, particularly during the summer season when the population increases dramatically,” District Attorney Timothy D. Sini said in a statement. “This investigation was swift and effective in targeting the ongoing drug problem, and the reason why is because of excellent collaboration between the federal and local law enforcement agencies involved.”

In addition to the SCDA’s East End Drug Task Force, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service were involved in busting the operation. The East End Drug Task Force includes the town and village police departments on the East End plus the New York State Police, Suffolk County Sheriffs and Suffolk County Police Department.

In a statement posted on Facebook, East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo thanked the SCDA, DEA, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and East End Drug Task Force partners for their assistance.

“Montauk and the Town of East Hampton are safer today and we are thankful for the support,” Chief Sarlo said. “The distribution of dangerous narcotics throughout our town, and specifically in Montauk during the extremely crowded summer months, has long been a focus of our department’s enforcement efforts, and I personally want to commend and thank the officers who put in a tremendous amount of work, time and initiative into developing the intelligence that was needed to bring this case to a close. Your efforts are truly commendable and represent the best of what law enforcement and public service is about.”

According to the SCDA, the defendants allegedly used the U.S. Postal Service to receive packages of illicit substances through the mail from within the United States as well as outside the country. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service seized a package of approximately 100 oxycodone and alprazolam pills, addressed to one location where some of the defendants were living, plus a second package containing about $17,460 in cash intended to be mailed by the defendants as a payment for the drugs.

“One thing is clear, the wrong kind of traffic was coming to Montauk,” said James Hunt, DEA New York Division special agent in charge. “Traffickers who send narcotics through the mail and distribute within restaurants and bars endanger every person and community along the way. It’s time that these defendants are held accountable for their brazen actions.”

Mr. Sini also alleged the defendants significantly marked up the market prices of their drugs, charging more than dealers could get in areas west of the East End.

“These tourist locations thrive during the summer months, providing this organization an expanded client base from Memorial Day to Labor Day,” he said. “Given their control over the drug market in Montauk, these co-conspirators were able to charge significantly inflated prices for their illegal products, which included cocaine and oxycodone.”

According to a Sag Harbor Village Police report, East Hampton Town Police relied on Sag Harbor Village Police headquarters on Division Street to hold several of the defendants on the morning of August 15.

Several of the defendants are known by aliases. Geraldo Vargas-Munoz, 37, who is also known as “Chelo,” was charged with first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a felony. Elvin Silva-Ruiz, 40, who is also known as “Pito,” was charged with second-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, a felony. William Crespo-Duran, 35, who is also known as “Flaco,” was charged with second-degree criminal possession of controlled substance, a felony. Antonio Ramirez-Gonzalez, 30, who is also known as “Tete,” and Gilberto Quintana-Crespo, 32, who is also known as “Jimmy,” were charged with second-degree conspiracy, a felony.

Kevin Becker, 30, and John DeMelio, 32, were also charged with second-degree conspiracy. John Doherty Valentin, 29, was charged with third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, a felony.

Thomas Harwood, 25, and Nawar Qanbar, 32, were charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor. Louis Madariaga-Medina, 31, is charged with two counts of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Alex Joel Tirado-Rivera, 32, and Bracklie Vargas-Gonzalez, 24, were charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation. Israel Padilla-Rosas, 33, was charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor. A 41-year-old was also charged in connection with the case, for unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation.

All of the defendants listed home addresses in Montauk.