District Attorney Describes Drug Ring Operating Primarily On Shinnecock Territory Following Arrests

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Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini.

BY GREG WEHNER AND RACHEL VALDESPINO

Thursday morning the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office East End Drug Task Force, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New York State Police, and the Suffolk County Police Department arrested 24 individuals, eight of whom were from the Shinnecock Indian Territory, and executed five search warrants in connection with a long-term investigation into what the DA’s office described as a network of drug traffickers operating on and near the Shinnecock Nation Territory.

“For far too long, criminals have attempted to evade law enforcement and hide on the Shinnecock Reservation, terrorizing the law-abiding members of the Shinnecock Nation — selling drugs, and committing various acts of violence,” Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said at a press conference Thursday evening in Hauppauge. “That ends today.”
According to Mr. Sini, the investigation began in December 2018, following an increase of firearm violence on the territory, marked by what he said was increased narcotics distribution, firearm possession and several fatal overdoses.

Police said the long-term investigation involved the use of undercover officers, confidential informants, routine surveillance, wiretapping, and a significant amount of collaboration between law enforcement agencies.

The agencies that participated in the operation and investigation included New York State Police, Suffolk County Police, the Suffolk County sheriff’s office, East Hampton Town Police, Riverhead Town Police, Southampton Town Police, the FBI, Southampton Village Police, and Southold Town Police. A majority of the officers were State Police — having jurisdiction on the territory.

Mr. Sini said, to date, law enforcement had recovered in excess of 65 grams of heroin, 47 grams of a fentanyl analog, cocaine, a shotgun, in excess of 10 pounds of marijuana, oxycodone, a digital scale, and $16,000 in cash.

Mr. Sini added that the search warrants executed Thursday uncovered approximately 120 grams of heroin, multiple grams of fentanyl, 90 grams of cocaine, over 10 pounds of marijuana, an assault weapon, numerous shotguns and rifles, as well as drug paraphernalia including materials consistent with drug packaging and resale, as well as cutting agents.

“This is a massive drug ring operation out of the reservation, which was an effort on their part — a failed effort, to evade detection by law enforcement,” Mr. Sini said.

In response to the arrests, the Shinnecock Council of Trustees said in a statement sent out by Tribal Trustee Chairman Bryan Polite: “Although the Council of Trustees did not have prior knowledge of the operation, the Shinnecock Community at large has suffered greatly due to the opioid and fentanyl epidemic and Tribal members have consistently requested the assistance of outside law enforcement agencies to help combat the issue. The Shinnecock Nation is committed to bettering the quality of life for all our Tribal members, and the Council will continue to provide a safe and tranquil environment for our Nation.”

According to a release from Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini’s office Thursday evening, the investigation revealed evidence that William Bess III, 35, of Southampton, purchased large quantities of heroin and cocaine in order to resell to individuals on the Shinnecock Reservation and elsewhere, and Johnnie Booker, 35, of Bellport, has been identified as his alleged supplier of cocaine.

Police said the investigation also revealed evidence that Justin Eleazer, 29, and Ryan Kellis, 32, both of Southampton, allegedly conspired to distribute heroin and cocaine to members of the Shinnecock Reservation and other residents in the Southampton area. Both Mr. Eleazer and Mr. Kellis are alleged to have used other members of the organization to test the heroin they were selling to ensure its potency in order to determine its value. Police said other alleged suppliers for the narcotics are Benjamin Diaz, 47, of the Bronx, and Kenneth Rivero, 34, of Flanders.
Thursday’s arrests included:

William I. Bess III, 35, of Southampton, is charged with conspiracy in the fourth degree, criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, all felonies. If convicted of the top count, he faces a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison.

Johnnie Booker, 45, of Bellport is charged with conspiracy in the fourth degree, two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, all felonies. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison.

Benjamin Diaz, 47, of the Bronx is charged with operating as a major trafficker and conspiracy in the second degree, both felonies. If convicted of the top count, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Justin Eleazer, 29, of Southampton is charged with operating as a major trafficker and conspiracy in the second degree, both felonies, and driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor. If convicted of the top count, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Ryan Kellis, 32, of Southampton is charged with operating as a major trafficker, conspiracy in the second degree, four counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree, and six counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, all felonies. If convicted of the top count, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Kenneth Rivero, 34, of Flanders is charged with conspiracy in the second degree, criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree and criminal possession of marijuana in the first degree, all felonies. If convicted of the top count, he faces a maximum sentence of eight and one-third to 25 years in prison. Mr. Rivero was arrested at 6:30 a.m. at Lake Pointe Drive in Middle Island. He was arraigned on Thursday afternoon at Southampton Village Justice Court by Southampton Town Justice Deborah Kooperstein and bail was set at $10,000 cash. There will be a bail source hearing on October 29.

Max Byrne, 30, of Southampton is charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a felony. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 12 and one-half to 25 years in prison.

Ryan Aldrich, 27, of East Hampton is charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a felony. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of eight and one-third to 25 years in prison.

Joseph Dowling, 27, of Sag Harbor is charged with conspiracy in the second degree, criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree, and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, all felonies. If convicted of the top count, he faces a maximum sentence of 12 and one-half to 25 years in prison.

Brandon Gardner, 33, of Southampton is charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a felony. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of eight and one-third to 25 years in prison.

Edward Gumbs, 57, of Southampton is charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a felony. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 12 and one-half to 25 years in prison.

Thomas Halek, 49, of Hampton Bays is charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a felony. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 12 and one-half to 25 years in prison.

Trevor Hardin, 29, of Flanders is charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree and criminal possession of marijuana in the first degree, all felonies. If convicted of the top count, he faces a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Mr. Hardin was arraigned on Thursday afternoon at Southampton Village Justice Court. Bail was set at $100,000.

Matthew Manzella, 30, of Hampton Bays is charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a felony. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 12 and one-half to 25 years in prison. Mr. Manzella is due at Southampton Town Justice Court on October 29. He was remanded because the court does not have jurisdiction to set bail, Justice Kooperstein said during his arraignment that took place at Southampton Village Justice Court Thursday.

Walter Mims, 33, of Southampton is charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a felony. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 12 and one-half to 25 years in prison.

Derrick Quinn, 49, of Southampton is charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a felony. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of eight and one-third to 25 years in prison.

Valton Reddick, 51, of Southampton is charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a felony. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of eight and one-third to 25 years in prison.

Nichole Rosado, 29, of Southampton is charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a felony. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of eight and one-third to 25 years in prison.

Richard Short, 50, of Southampton is charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a felony. . If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of eight and one-third to 25 years in prison.

Nicholas Spiegel, 32, of Hampton Bays is charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a felony. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of eight and one-third to 25 years in prison.

Frank Taylor, 59, of Southampton is charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a felony. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 12 and one-half to 25 years in prison.

John Tracey, 25, of East Hampton is charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a felony. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 12 and one-half to 25 years in prison.

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