Suspected gang leaders believed to be behind two local drug distribution rings have been arrested by members of the East End Drug Task Force as part of a months-long investigation, according to the Suffolk County district attorney’s office.
Prosecutors said the arrested suspects include several high-profile members of the Bloods street gang who were selling both heroin and cocaine throughout Southampton, East Hampton and Riverhead towns.
At a press conference at the Arthur Cromarty Criminal Courthouse in Riverhead on Tuesday morning, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said that 14 people are in custody, and as many as 40 additional arrests are pending. He said that, to date, the investigation had recovered six kilograms—more than 13 pounds—of cocaine and heroin, multiple weapons, and upward of $100,000 in cash.
During the course of the investigation, Mr. Spota said detectives uncovered several secret stashes of drugs, include those found in hidden compartments in cars, underneath fish tanks and in dressers. Investigators are hoping to add additional charges to the suspects already in custody, potentially including drug trafficking charges that could carry life sentences.
Those arrested include: Ronald Paschall, 42, of Northampton; Jerome Carey, 31, of Sound Beach; John Miles, 44, of Mastic; Corey Woodley, 36, of Flanders; Herbert Prophet, 33, of Uniondale; Reynaldo DeJesusMelo, 39, of the Bronx; Jimmy Dean, 38, of Baiting Hollow; Dwayne Harris, 31, of Riverhead; Eric Thomas, 42, of Riverhead; Lakiwa Kelly, 30, of Shirley; Walter James, 42, of Riverhead; Rosemary Hinchy Brown, 51, of Riverhead; Tiffany Norris, 33, of Riverhead; and Shawanna James, 43, of Flanders.
“The success of this investigation is a testament to the cooperation, collaboration and perseverance that law enforcement relies on to bring these investigations to a successful conclusion,” Mr. Spota said. He said the 14 arrests came in phases, from June 14 to July 16, and added that some of those taken into custody “were in possession of large quantities of heroin and cocaine, as well as weapons, at the time of their arrest.”
According to Mr. Spota, the investigation was started after police in all five East End towns noticed an increase in the amount of narcotics being confiscated over several months and launched a search for the source. Eventually, confidential informants led police to Mr. Woodley, a Flanders resident whom authorities described as one of the top leaders in a cocaine operation, and Mr. Thomas, a known seller.
Mr. Spota explained that both men have prior criminal records, noting that Mr. Woodley has served close to five years in prison on drug-related charges from two separate occasions, while Mr. Thomas, who is currently on parole, served six years for selling narcotics.
Authorities estimated that Mr. Woodley was bringing in at least a kilogram of cocaine to the East End every week from a distributor in New Jersey.
On June 14, Mr. Woodley was stopped while riding in a vehicle with another alleged co-conspirator, Mr. Prophet, and authorities said they recovered a kilogram of cocaine in the vehicle after stopping Mr. Prophet, the driver, for a moving violation. Both men were charged with first-degree possession of a controlled substance, a felony.
Mr. Woodley is now facing a maximum of 12 to 24 years in prison if convicted, while Mr. Prophet is looking at between eight and 20 years.
One month later, on July 14, officers executed a search warrant on Mr. Thomas’s house on Lewis Street in Riverhead, where police found scales, grinders, and more than $4,000 in cash and cocaine. Around the same time, investigators said they were tipped off about Mr. Paschall, whom they described as a known member of the “Stones,” a sect of the Bloods. The Northampton resident, who authorities said also has a prior criminal history, was picking up the narcotics from Manhattan and Yonkers. He was arrested on July 6 when he was found with 1.5 kilograms of cocaine in his vehicle, authorities said.
Mr. Paschall was charged with first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a felony, and two counts of third-degree fleeing from a police officer in a vehicle, a misdemeanor. He was also ticketed for reckless driving and multiple traffic violations.
Drugs distributed by Mr. Paschall were primarily being resold in East Hampton, Riverhead, Southampton and Southold towns, and investigators said they were able to follow the flow of illegal drugs to a second distribution ring led by fellow gang members Mr. Dean and Mr. Harris, both of whom have spent time behind bars for drug- and alcohol-related convictions, according to authorities.
On July 13, a search warrant of Mr. Dean’s home in Baiting Hollow uncovered heroin, cocaine, packaging materials and a mini press, as well as a loaded handgun in his bedroom and a stolen and loaded semi-automatic Glock in his car, authorities said. More than $100,000 in cash was found in a hidden compartment of his Honda Pilot, they added. On the same day, a search of Mr. Harris’s Riverhead home revealed cocaine, heroin and multiple cellphones.
Investigators also discovered that Mr. Paschall was supplying the drugs to smaller-scale sellers, including Mr. Carey and Mr. Miles, also Blood gang members. Both men have purchased at least two kilograms of heroin from Mr. DeJesusMelo, a cab driver from the Bronx, authorities said. Mr. Carey and Mr. Miles were both arrested on July 6 and charged with first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a felony. Mr. DeJesusMelo was arrested on June 29 while selling drugs out of his cab, and charged with the same crime.
The remainder of the arrests were made on July 16 at a Zion Street house in Riverhead that undercover officers have been observing for some time, and where at least one person has fatally overdosed on heroin in the past few months, police said. Charges for Mr. James, Ms. Brown, Ms. Norris and Ms. James ranged from third-degree possession, a misdemeanor, to possession of marijuana, a violation.
To date, all 14 defendants remain in prison and have been denied bail. Several are still awaiting arraignment.
“There is no question these individuals may think they are going to get away with this, but they are not going to,” Mr. Spota said. “We are going to get them.”
On Tuesday, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, who attended Mr. Spota’s press conference, said he was happy to have detectives representing the five East End towns working together to bring down drug dealers, adding that he is impressed with what they have accomplished thus far.
“I am learning all of the details myself today, and it is quite shocking,” he said. “It is summer on the East End, and a lot of people are thinking about going to the beach, but our law enforcement personnel are putting their lives in jeopardy to make our lives safer.”