Authorities on Long Island Tuesday busted a huge heroin distribution network that turned a major artery along Nassau and Suffolk counties into an open-air drug market, brazenly flooding the area with thousands of bags of heroin each week and netting tens of thousands of dollars in profits, officials said.
Three dozen members of the alleged drug ring that operated along Rt. 110 were indicted and at least 34 people were in custody. Additional arrests were expected, as police were still conducting at least one additional search late into the day.
Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies executed more than a dozen search warrants across Long Island as part of the roundup, including six simultaneous raids, in what officials said was one of the largest drug busts in the region’s history.
“These individuals turned Rt. 110 into their owner personal heroin highway,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said at a press conference Tuesday evening, flanked by members of Nassau and Suffolk police, State police, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
More than a dozen members who exclusively operated on Rt. 110, dubbed the “110 crew,” peddled heroin outside hotels, restaurants, strip malls, big box retailers and coffee shops, officials said. Authorities linked the alleged heroin crew to one fatal heroin overdose and 20 non-fatal overdoses, though they cautioned that those estimates were conservative.
Officials estimate that the drug dealers sold 4,000 bags of heroin each week, earning approximately $40,000 to $50,000 as a result.
Six alleged members were charged with operating as a major trafficker, punishable by up to 15 years to life in prison. At least three supplied large quantities of heroin and cocaine to other traffickers on Long Island, who subsequently hawked the highly addictive drugs to hundreds, if not thousands, of customers, officials said.
“This is the poison that fed the addiction of hundreds, or even thousands of our neighbors, friends and relatives,” Singas said.
The crew stood out for their flamboyance—seemingly flaunting their wealth by driving flashy vehicles like Bentleys and a Rolls Royce—as well as for their audacity: canvassing Rt. 110 with their drugs and openly counting money and measuring product in broad daylight, Singas said.
They operated a three-tier system that included a trio of major suppliers, 15 distributors that set up shop along Rt. 110 and 18 re-sellers who operated independently. Authorities said 27-year-old Elvin Rosario of Copiague and 28-year-old Reinardo Adames of West Babylon, plus an unidentified suspect, were the suppliers.
“These dealers and re-sellers operated like a well-run business: When new heroin arrived, it was bagged and distributed immediately,” Singas said. “Distributors were essentially on call, operating in shifts at pre-arranged locations.”
Acting Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter characterized the operation as one of the largest in the county in the last 15 years. Investigators seized $50,000 in cash, 5,000 decks of heroin, a small quantity of crack cocaine, guns, and 18 vehicles—four of which were outfitted with “traps” that they allegedly used to conceal drugs, Krumpter said.
Police executed 11 search warrants before sunrise Tuesday and five others later in the day. As officials were presenting the operation to the media, officers were in the midst of searching an unidentified facility for more evidence, officials said.
The investigation began nine months ago after authorities received information about a drug ring operating in both counties.
Krumpter said investigators began by scrutinizing the overdoses, eventually following the evidence to the “110 crew.”
The sprawling investigation comes nearly a year to the day officials in Nassau and Suffolk counties established the “Long Island Heroin Task Force,” charged with tackling the persistent heroin problem on the Island.
“This take-down made our streets safer, both by removing guns but also these drugs,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini. “The drugs that are being sold by these drug dealers, those who have zero regard for human life, are lethal.”
The network stored drugs at homes in Farmingdale, Lindenhurst, West Babylon, and Bay Shore, officials said, adding that a house in North Amityville served as its main distribution center.
Among the 36 indicted, 34 were in custody as of Tuesday evening, including four people who had already been incarcerated. Among those charged was a woman seven months pregnant, a volunteer firefighter, a drug counselor, and a former celebrity correspondent for Howard Stern and People magazine, Singas said.
“This case shows how pervasive the heroin epidemic is on Long Island, and it shows us that it crosses all racial and socio-economic boundaries,” Singas said.
The suspects who had already been arraigned include: Elvin Rosario, 27, of Copiague; Reinardo Adames, 28, of West Babylon; Tashawn Combs, 27, of Copiague, Herman Monroe, 27, of North Amityville; Branden Harris, 27 of North Amityville; Kenneth Nesmith, 29, of Brooklyn; Joseph Ferguson, 29, of North Amityville; Damien Winbush, 34, of Massapequa; Cashawn Winbush, 31 of Amityville; Matthew Casale, 36, of Levittown; Douglas Blachly, 28, of Dix Hills; Theresa Detillio, 46, of West Babylon; and Irene Higgins, 36, of East Meadow.
Authorities said the investigation is active and ongoing.
(Featured photo credit: Christopher Twarowski/Long Island Press)