On Thursday, Oct. 13 federal officials announced that they had brought down a Kingston-based cocaine trafficking organization that imported drugs from California via New York City for sale on local streets.
A total of 28 members of the alleged drug ring were apprehended in the early-morning raids in Kingston and Poughkeepsie on Thursday. Police seized 20 illegal firearms, illegally diverted pills, five kilograms of cocaine, and smaller quantities of heroin, crack cocaine and marijuana.
Later that day, a press conference was held in the Kingston armory to make the announcement. The United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York Richard S. Hartenian, United States Homeland Security, Ulster County Sherriff’s Office, Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright, state troopers and U.S. Marshals were present for the conference.
Det./Sgt. Abe Markiewicz of the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office said that the case began in 2014 and, after a brief interruption, resumed in April 2015. Markiewicz said that he is proud of his agency’s involvement and thankful to other organizations that participated in the investigation.
“There were a lot of people putting in a lot of hours, a lot of sleepless nights, working on your days off, staying late on short notice, coming in early on short notice,” he said. “A lot of people really put a lot of energy into making this happen and it’s nice to see that the fruit of that was able to be realized.”
Also heavily involved in the investigation was Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team (URGENT), a task force of members from sheriff’s office and local police agencies within the county. Carnright credits URGENT with spearheading the initial investigation.
“My office is one of the heads of that task force, so I am a member of that task force,” he said. “That group was really the one that initiated that investigation based on information they had from work they were doing.”
The drug ring was based in Kingston and Poughkeepsie and members obtained the cocaine from a source in New York City who imported it from California. They used a variety of methods to move the drugs including stashing them in karaoke machines and other electronic devices.
“This case reaches beyond the tri-county area, this case reaches beyond New York State, so in that regard it [the operation] is fairly sophisticated because involves multiple states and potentially internationally,” Markiewicz said.
Historically speaking, the Hudson Valley is a popular area for both legitimate and illegitimate business for several factors including its proximity to New York City and Albany, the availability of the thruway and the availability of metro North on the other side of the river. Markiewicz said that there have been sweeps and similar cases in recent years in Ulster, Dutchess and Orange counties, so these cases are not unheard of, but are rare given the amount of time and resources necessary to devote.
“I think what separates this case from other cases is that this is probably the largest that I can think of in recent history as far as what I would call leadership of these criminal enterprises,” Markiewicz said. “Of the people arrested in this case, I would describe less of the people as street level or intermediate level people.”
Poughkeepsie residents Marcus Fisher, 39 and Romell Hearn, 27 headed the ring and the Kingston operation was run by Recardo Langston, 31. At the press conference, Hartenian mentioned that the group moved much more cocaine than what was seized in the raids and the estimates of the amount distributed will play a role in the federal proceedings against them.