February 09, 2011
Seize (Sheetrock) Cocaine, Guns & Funny Money
The bust was real, even if the money suspected drug dealers used was counterfeit and the product they thought they were buying was more likely from Home Depot than Colombia. Discussing a multi-faceted drug investigation that led to the arrest of 23 individuals, many of whom are East End residents, last Thursday Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota shared an anecdote that proves the old saying about 'no honor among thieves.'
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Members of the East End Drug Task Force last month picked up two alleged participants in the drug ring after they went up west to purchase what they thought was a half kilo of cocaine. They brought with them stacks of home-minted $20 bills to pay for the purchase. Cops stopped their car on the way back to Suffolk County, discovering it wasn't cocaine wrapped tightly in plastic. It was a mixture of sheetrock and baking soda. "While they were ripping off guys in the city, guys in the city were ripping them off," Spota related.
The notion of cons getting conned elicited smirks among the press corps during last week's press conference, but other details of the investigation are anything but funny. Gang activity, counterfeiting, drug sale and even suspected weapons trafficking and potential police impersonation for a home invasion underscored Spota's observation that "Right here in Riverhead, right here in Southampton, throughout the East End we have bad, bad, people."
The investigation began last August, and at first task force members believed they were scrutinizing a drug ring responsible for "significant cocaine trafficking in Suffolk County." As time wore on, investigators learned suspected ringleaders Carnell Walker, aka "Smell," 25, of Anchor Street in Flanders and John Gayles, aka "Guns," 25, of Phillips Street in Riverhead were also members of the Bloods street gang.
The EETF determined Gayles and Walker were cooking and packaging cocaine in their homes and dealing an estimated half-kilo of the drug, with an estimated value of $20,000, each week. Spota said two other men James White aka "Dog," 39, of Ellen Street in Riverhead and Mack Butler aka "Kobe," 36, of Rider Street in Patchogue comprised the hierarchy of the ring.
As the tentacles of the investigation began to expand, police were able to garner court approval for wiretaps, which led them to learn about the counterfeit and potential weapons trafficking.
Thousands of dollars in fake money was printed up at the Amityville residence of another codefendant Dewayne Butler, according to the DA. The counterfeit money often went from Butler to Walker in Riverhead, Spota explained. Suspects would take a single $20 to a neighborhood gas station or convenience store and, if they passed it successfully, they knew they had a batch they could sell to others for 10 cents on the dollar. Information about the alleged counterfeiting will be turned over to federal enforcement officials.
So, too, will information about suspected interstate weapons trafficking. Again through the wire, police learned Gayles and another person were engaged in transporting guns to Suffolk County from Georgia, Spota said.
In mid-January, the task force raided 10 houses from Amityville to Patchogue, Riverhead and Flanders. In Butler's apartment in Patchogue, Spota said, officials recovered gear clearly marked "police." Detectives believe suspects were amassing costumes and equipment in preparation for a home invasion. A warrant executed at White's Riverhead house produced a hand written list of items to procure, including special lights for an Impala suspects planned to rent. Spota found the implications of the discovery "really, really disturbing."
The police gear wasn't the only evidence collected during the raids. Last Thursday a table spanning over 15 feet was laden with the proceeds of the searches: drugs real and fake, money real and fake, paraphernalia to cook dope and equipment to print bogus bucks, plus several guns, including one with a laser scope, were displayed. The task force recovered over a half kilo of cocaine and $12,500 in cash.
Three handguns found in the raids include a 45-caliber handgun that traces to Georgia, a .357 revolver that may have been used in a shooting in Shirley and a .9 mm handgun that ballistics link to two shootings in Riverhead.
The guns were not alone in harboring history. All four of the suspected ringleaders are prior felons with convictions, one dating back to the 90s. Walker, White and Gayles have all done time on drug charges, while Butler is a convicted violent felony offender. His rap sheet includes firearms possession during the course of a robbery and a shooting in Amityville.
Two factions of the Bloods street gang – the Doctors Path Flame and Trey 9 -- were represented in the arrests. Walker and Gayles were described by the Task Force as gang members as were arrestees Tristan Jackson of Calverton, Brian Stokley aka "Little Bow Wow" and Charles Pettaway of Flanders, and Stanley Griffin, Tremel Kelly and Tremaine Kelley of Riverhead. Both Kellys were charged with third degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, as were Robert Mahoney, Eric Thomas, and Delmus Wise of Riverhead. Thomas Locolla aka "Whitebread" of Riverhead and Carlton Walker of Westhampton were charged with fourth degree conspiracy. Second-degree conspiracy charges were lodged against Pettaway, Stokley and Griffin, plus Tina Greene and Yolanda Miles of Riverhead, Grant Carle of Southampton, Javid Yarsien of Patchogue, and Allen Brown of Aquebogue. Verna Miles faces counts of forgery, as does Dewayne Butler, who is additionally charged with criminal possession of a weapon and possession of forgery devices, conspiracy and use of drug paraphernalia. They are both from Amityville.
Tristan Jackson faces multiple felony drug possession and sale charges while White and Kyle Harris aka "Uncle Kyle" of Riverhead were booked for attempted drug possession and conspiracy.
For alleged kingpin Carnell Walker, it's a round robin of drug possession, sale and conspiracy charges, 34 counts in all. Gayles was arrested for conspiracy and weapons possession and Butler will be defended on conspiracy, weapons, drugs, stolen property and forgery charges.
Walker, Butler, Gayles and others were remanded without bail; some of the other suspects were taken to jail in lieu of bail amounts topping the $100,000 mark.
Carnell's house sits in the shadow of the Friendship Baptist Church on a modest street in Flanders. On Friday Reverend Charles McElroy said he was unaware of any criminal activities next door to the church or in the neighborhood, nor did his parishioners express concern about drugs or gang activity in the area.
Other neighborhoods were not so lucky. "Gangs have made life miserable for the law abiding, good citizens of communities they ravage. In some areas of Suffolk County gang members literally rule the streets," Spota said. One county official reported neighbors on either side of Butler's apartment in Patchogue applauded when police arrived to raid the abode.
"The message we want to send is you may scare your neighbors but you will not scare us," Spota declared. The DA vowed to continue efforts to "get this poison off the streets."
The East End Drug Task Force is comprised of law enforcement officials from the DA's office, the state police, Suffolk County PD, and local police departments in Riverhead, East Hampton, Shelter Island and Southold. Last week Spota praised Police Officer Patrick McDermott of the Riverhead Town Police for taking the lead on the investigation. At the same time, he expressed dismay at Southampton Town's failure to participate in the task force, particularly since so much of the illegal activity took place within its borders.