February 07, 2019

DA Seeks More Than $800K From Accused Drug Traffickers

Firefighters, former police officers and members of outlaw biker gangs were arrested Tuesday during a massive series of raids.

MIDDLETOWN, NY — In addition to arresting 26 people Tuesday accused in two connected drug trafficking operations, prosecutors want to seize their ill-gotten gains. The Orange County District Attorney's Office has instituted a civil proceeding against many defendants in the cocaine conspiracy seeking more than $833,000 in illegally obtained profits.

The DA plans to do the same against defendants in the pill conspiracy, one member of which was said to have made more than $70,000 during a six-month period.
"It is a sad day when law enforcement must execute narcotics related search warrants at firehouses and when paid firemen and former police officers are charged with high level narcotics felonies," said District Attorney David Hoovler in a statement.

The paid fireman is Paul Smith, 48, of Deerpark, a Lieutenant of the City of Middletown Fire Department, an alleged ringleader. He has been charged with crimes including Operating as a Major Trafficker, and is alleged to have been a member of both conspiracies. Search warrants were executed at the City of Middletown Fire Department. He is also being charged with Attempted Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree; Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree; and Conspiracy in the Second Degree.

Mechanicstown volunteer firefighter Robert Dunham, 46, of Middletown, has been charged with crimes including Conspiracy in the Second Degree and Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree, (4 counts). He is also alleged to have been a member of both conspiracies.

Also charged is Dominick Guardino, 55, of Middletown, chief of the Mechanicstown Fire Department. He is charged with Conspiracy Second Degree.

One former police officer accused in the drug bust is John Beltempo, 49, of New Windsor, who previously worked for the Village of Spring Valley Police Department, the Orange County Sheriff's Office and the Town of Wallkill Police Department. He was charged with Conspiracy Second Degree and is alleged to have participated in the conspiracy to sell cocaine. Beltempo is the president of the Burnt Pistons outlaw motorcycle gang (link is external), police told the Times Herald Record.

The other is retired police officer George Thomas of Bloomingburg, charged with Conspiracy Second Degree. He is the president of the Chingaling outlaw motorcycle gang, police said.

Others accused of being leaders in one or both drug rings:
Marquis Gamble, 34, of Nyack, has been charged with crimes including Operating as a Major
Trafficker, and is alleged to have been a "profiteer" in the conspiracy to sell cocaine. It is
alleged that it was Gamble's role in the conspiracy to provide cocaine to other members of the
conspiracy. He is also being charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance First
Degree; and Conspiracy Second Degree.

Garry Michel, 48, of the Town of Wallkill, has been charged with crimes including Operating as
a Major Trafficker, and is alleged to have been a "profiteer" in the conspiracy to sell narcotic
pills, which were marketed to buyers as containing oxycodone, but which contained fentanyl. The pills were colored, stamped, and marked to appear to be oxycodone pills. He was
additionally charged with Conspiracy Second Degree. Michel was said to have made more than $70,000 during a six-month period, the Times Herald Record reported.

In addition, 16 other people were charged with second-degree conspiracy (link is external) in connection with either the cocaine or fentanyl drug ring.

Also, Sunshine Wall, 40, of Cuddebackville, NY was charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance Seventh Degree and Nicholas V. Ciccone, 47, of Port Jervis was charged with Criminal Impersonation and Parole Absconder.

Police are still looking for four more people who have been charged:
  • CHARLES KAVANAUGH, 31, Newburgh, NY
  • GARY CALDWELL, 33, Wappingers, NY
  • JUSTIN ANTONA, 27, Slate Hill, NY
  • ANDREW BENDIG, 23, Middletown, NY
In addition to arrests, law enforcement officials recovered more than $200,000, 25 handguns, one assault rifle, multiple rifles, 10 vehicles, two motorcycles, over 2.5 pounds of cocaine and 1300 Fentanyl pills.
"It is only through enforcement actions such as 'Operation Bread, White and Blue' that law enforcement is able to pursue those higher level drug dealers and craftier offenders who attempt to insulate themselves from criminal liability by dealing drugs through intermediaries," said Hoovler. "Organized criminal activity, especially which involves illegal weapons, presents the public and law enforcement with additional challenges and concerns, and it simply cannot be tolerated. My office will continue to use every tool at our disposal, including the use of electronic surveillance and civil forfeiture actions to combat the illicit narcotics trade and all types of organized criminal activity."

The maximum sentence for the Class A-1 felony of Operating as a Major Trafficker is 25 years to Life in State Prison.

The maximum sentence for the Class AI felony of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree is 8 to 20 years in State Prison. If the offender has a prior felony conviction the maximum sentence is 12 to 24 years in State Prison.

The maximum sentence for the Class A-II felonies of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree and Criminal Sale of a controlled Substance in the Second Degree is 3 to 10 years in State Prison. If the offender has a prior felony conviction the maximum sentence is 6 to 44 years in State Prison.

The maximum sentence for the Class B felony Conspiracy in the Second Degree is 8 1/3 to 25 years in State Prison. If the offender has a prior felony conviction the maximum sentence is 12 ½ to 25 years in State Prison.

The New York State Police were assisted by the Orange County District Attorney's Office, the
Orange County Sheriff's Department, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Federal Bureau of
Investigation.

Hoovler thanked the New York State Police for their efforts in the investigation. He commended the New York State Police for their investigation given the complexity of the case.

Assistant District Attorney Neal Eriksen assisted in the investigation of the case and is assisting in prosecuting all of the defendants charged in the operation.

Senior Assistant District Attorneys Kerry Kolek and David Byrne are prosecuting all the defendants charged in the operation. A criminal charge is merely an allegation that a defendant has committed a violation of the criminal law, and it is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the State's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.


USA - BNN.

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