SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WROC) — New York Attorney General Letitia James held a press conference in Syracuse Wednesday to announce two “major” drug trafficking rings in Central New York.
In total, 78 people were indicted for trafficking cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl throughout New York state, as well as the illegal possession of firearms and untraceable ghost guns.
“Cracking down on illegal drug trafficking and violent crime has been a priority for our office since day one,” said Attorney General James. “As Syracuse continues to experience record high levels of violence, today, we make good on our commitment to protecting our communities by taking these dangerous guns and drugs off our streets. We will ensure that those responsible for endangering our communities are held accountable. I thank our law enforcement partners for their support in seeing this through.”
James said the 78 individuals are charged with 355 crimes as a result of a two-year investigation that resulted in the seizure of 32 kilograms of cocaine, 117 grams of heroin mixed with fentanyl, more than $490,000, and 15 firearms, including nine ghost guns. In total, the seizures have an estimated street value of up to $2 million.
From the New York Attorney General
The first indictment outlines the activity of the “Pupello Group” — which was led by Michael Pupello, and charges 25 individuals with 123 counts for their roles in selling narcotics in Onondaga — Madison, and Oswego counties. Pupello employed a vast network of individuals who bought and sold primarily cocaine in the region, and sourced the majority of the drugs from Gregory Procopio, Eduardo Huertas, Jr., and Clinton Jackson. During the course of the wiretapping, the OAG discovered that Jackson was also the source for a separate drug ring in the region, which is outlined in the second indictment. The defendants frequently utilized coded and cryptic terminology in an attempt to disguise their illicit activities, such as referring to ounces of cocaine as “onions” or “zips,” and 3.5-gram narcotics transactions as “balls,” short for “8 balls,” or one-eighth ounce quantities of cocaine. In addition to cocaine, this investigation also resulted in the recovery of MDMA, morphine, and other controlled substances intended for distribution, digital scales used to weigh narcotics, and a machete.
The second indictment outlines the activity of the “Flores Group” — which was led by Hector Flores, a/k/a “Pito” — and charges 50 individuals with 226 counts for their roles in selling narcotics in Onondaga, Oswego, Oneida, Cortland, Westchester, New York, and Bronx counties.
Flores — who is being charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker, which carries a mandatory life sentence in state prison — was a narcotics supplier for numerous Onondaga County drug dealers, including Clinton Jackson, Christian Acevedo, and Brian Fore. In communications intercepted during this investigation, Flores coordinated the shipments of nearly a dozen kilograms of cocaine through the mail from Puerto Rico to addresses in Onondaga County, which were later intercepted by the United States Postal Service (USPS).
The investigation also revealed the challenges that narcotics traffickers faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, including finding secretive meeting places to conduct their transactions, as their common places, such as parking lots or shopping malls, were closed. In addition, traffickers often discussed a significant shortage of cocaine supply and complained about the high price from suppliers due to the “drought,” which resulted in the price of cocaine costing up to 40 percent more than typical illegal market prices. Flores and his network sought to utilize the USPS to get around the pandemic restrictions and get cheaper cocaine from Puerto Rico to their networks in Central New York.
The defendants also built custom trap doors in vehicles they used to transport these drugs and evade law enforcement. In one instance, Felix Jaquez was attempting to deliver drugs to David Fermin when he was pulled over. Investigators found 1.5 kilograms of cocaine inside a mechanical trap door in the glove compartment of the vehicle.
The third indictment is comprised of two defendants: Robert Miguel Lopez and Michael Elias Ventura-Montano. Lopez, of Florida, orchestrated the delivery of three kilograms of cocaine from Florida to New York City to Ventura-Montano. Ventura-Montano then drove the drugs from New York City to Syracuse, where he was intercepted by investigators. The three kilograms of cocaine and $31,000 in cash were recovered by investigators from a custom trap door in the center console of the car.
The fourth indictment is comprised of Jesus Manuel Ruiz Lopez, of Puerto Rico, and Carlos Guzman, of Rochester. Lopez is accused of coordinating the delivery of multiple kilograms of cocaine from Puerto Rico to Rochester, which Guzman then transported to Onondaga County. Investigators seized three kilograms of cocaine, $36,000 in cash, and a loaded .40 caliber Sig Sauer handgun from Guzman.
Today’s takedown marks the latest major drug bust in the OAG’s Suburban and Upstate Response to the Growing Epidemic (SURGE) Initiative, a law enforcement effort that brings together state and local law enforcement to target New York’s growing — and often violent — heroin, opioid, and narcotics trafficking networks. Since launching in 2017, SURGE has taken 722 alleged traffickers off the streets.
The four separate indictments — which were unsealed today — contain 355 counts and charge 78 individuals with crimes in relation to their involvement in the narcotics trafficking operation, including Operating as a Major Trafficker (class A-I felony), Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (class A, B, and C felonies), and Conspiracy to Commit those Crimes (class B felony).
Those charged in today’s four indictments include:
- CHRISTIAN COLON ACEVEDO, 30 years old, Onondaga County
- KENDELL BAXTROM, 30 years old, Onondaga County
- TONY BOOKER, A/K/A TONY ADAIR, 46 years old, Florida
- DONALD BORT, 51 years old, Onondaga County
- DERON BROWN, 28 years old, Onondaga County
- XAVIER CALCANO, 37 years old, Onondaga County
- JOSHUA CHAPLIN, 31 years old, Onondaga County
- VINCENT CZYZ, 23 years old, Oswego County
- JOHN DECKER, 52 years old, Chemung County
- JUSTIN DEPORTAGE, 32 years old, Onondaga County
- SAMUEL DEFRANCESCO, 33 years old, Madison County
- VICTOR DELAVEGA, 41 years old, Onondaga County
- CONSTANCE LEE EARL, 57 years old, Onondaga County
- DAVID FERMIN, 49 years old, Westchester County
- MIGUEL RODRIQUEZ FIGUEROA, 44 years old
- HECTOR FLORES, A/K/A “PITO”, 41 years old, Onondaga County
- BRIAN FORE, 36 years old, Onondaga County
- BRENT FOX, 28 years old, Cortland County
- NICHOLAS GEBO, 33 years old, Onondaga County
- ZACHARY GRAFF, 29 years old, Onondaga County
- SEAN GRIMM, 47 years old, Oswego County
- CARLOS GUZMAN, 30 years old, Monroe County
- ROBERT HAMMOND, 62 years old, Bronx County
- CHANCY HINDS, 30 years old, Madison County
- EDUARDO HUERTAS, JR., 30 years old, Onondaga County
- CLINTON JACKSON, 37 years old, Onondaga County
- FELIX JAQUEZ, 59 years old
- SHAYLA JONES, 25 years old, Onondaga County
- KYLE KULL, 29 years old, Onondaga County
- KODE LEACH, 28 years old, Oswego County
- JOSEPH LIEPKE, 38 years old, Onondaga County
- JESUS MANUEL RUIZ LOPEZ, 34 years old, Florida
- ROBERT MIGUEL LOPEZ, 38 years old, Florida
- JOSEPH LOSITO, 31 years old, Onondaga County
- JOSEPH MAGGIO, 62 years old, Onondaga County
- ANTONIO MANTARO, 31 years old, Onondaga County
- JOSHUA MARSH, 36 years old, Oswego County
- EZEQUIEL MARTINEZ, 27 years old, Onondaga County
- JOSUE MARTINEZ, 29 years old, Onondaga County
- WILLIAM MCGUIRK, 37 years old, Oswego County
- LUIS MORALES, 37 years old, Onondaga County
- MELISSA MORALES, 37 years old, Onondaga County
- JOSEPH NOLAN, 46 years old, Onondaga County
- THOMAS O’CONNOR, 45 years old, Onondaga County
- MELISSA ORTIZ, A/K/A “INDIA”, 53 years old, Onondaga County
- DEVIN PALERINO, 25 years old, Onondaga County
- DOMINICK PASCARELLA, 42 years old, Onondaga County
- STEPHEN POTICHER, A/K/A STEPHEN POTICHER, JR., 49 years old, Oswego County
- GREGORY PROCOPIO, 33 years old, Onondaga County
- MICHAEL PUPELLO, 33 years old, Madison County
- JEREMY QUINONES, 38 years old
- BRIAN REARDON, 46 years old, Onondaga County
- BRANDON REINHARDT, 29 years old, Onondaga County
- CHRISTOPHER RENSLOW, 42 years old, Madison County
- ALEX RIVERA, 36 years old, Onondaga County
- JAMES RUSTON, 45 years old, Onondaga County
- WILLIAM SALAY, 52 years old, Madison County
- MARC SAMS, 49 years old, Onondaga County
- SAMUEL MARTINEZ LOPEZ SANTOS, 29 years old
- JOHN SAUVE, 59 years old, Onondaga County
- RANDY SAYLER, 43 years old, Oswego County
- KYLE SCHULTZ, 31 years old, Onondaga County
- SAADIQ SESSOMS, 24 years old, Onondaga County
- TONI SMITH, 27 years old, Madison County
- WILLARD STORMES, 26 years old, Onondaga County
- JOSEPH TILDEN, 33 years old, Onondaga County
- GREG TOMKOS, 31 years old, Onondaga County
- ALESANDRA TRAJKOVSKA, 24 years old, Onondaga County
- SCOTT TYNON, 60 years old
- MICHAEL ELIAS VENTURA MONTANO, 28 years old,
- KONSTANTINOS VOULTSIOS, 29 years old, Onondaga County
- AMBER WATKINS, 25 years old, Onondaga County
- KYLE WEAVER, 24 years old, Oswego County
- FRANK WRIGHT, 42 years old, Onondaga County
- PETER WYSOCKI, 27 years old, Oswego County
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.