A.G. Schneiderman Announces Takedown Of Major Capital Region Narcotics Pipeline In “Operation Wrecking Ball”


19 Individuals Charged With 226 Crimes; Investigation – Led By AG’s Organized Crime Task Force – Recovered Over Three Pounds Of Narcotics And 35 Firearms.

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Albany, NY - June 22, 2017 - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the indictment of 19 people charged with conspiring to transport large amounts of narcotics from New York City to the Capital Region, for distribution throughout Albany, Rensselaer, and Schenectady Counties.
Today’s takedown – dubbed “Operation Wrecking Ball” –  marks the sixth major drug bust since Attorney General Schneiderman’s announcement of a targeted crackdown on New York’s growing - and often violent - heroin, opioid, and narcotics trafficking networks. In the past two months, Attorney General Schneiderman’s Operation Bricktown, Operation Un-Wise, Operation Gravy Train, Operation Bloodsport, and Operation Pipeline have resulted in 265 traffickers and dealers being taken off the streets throughout New York State. 
“Operation Wrecking Ball marks another significant dent in the narcotics pipeline that funnels in drugs and guns and threatens families across the Capital Region,” said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “My office is laser-focused on the growing epidemic of drugs and violence that’s surging across our state. Today’s arrests – and the 265 dealers we’ve taken off the street in the last two months alone – send an unmistakable message that we won’t tolerate those who deal death and violence in our communities.”
“Dangerous drugs and gun violence are not welcome in our communities,” said Acting Albany Police Chief Robert Sears. “The Albany Police Department remains committed to working with the Attorney General’s Office and our law enforcement partners to ensure that those who are responsible for bringing dangerous drugs and weapons into communities where our families reside and children play are not only arrested, but held to the highest degree of accountability. Today’s announcement shows that through a collaborative effort, we can continue to build upon the many successes we’ve already achieved. I’d like to commend Attorney General Schneiderman for his unwavering support for our agency and the Albany community.”
State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, “This case has resulted in drugs and guns being removed from our streets, and charges against the 19 individuals responsible for trafficking these dangerous narcotics in our neighborhoods. I want to commend the outstanding work of our members and law enforcement partners, and we remain committed to disrupting the flow of dangerous narcotics throughout New York State.”
The Attorney General’s investigation included hundreds of hours of physical surveillance and wiretapping, as well as the execution of numerous search warrants in Brooklyn and Schenectady. During the course of the wiretapping, conspirators frequently utilized coded and cryptic terminology in an attempt to disguise their illicit narcotics trafficking, such as referring to the powder cocaine that they were peddling as “the Miley Cyrus.” Over the course of the year-long investigation, which was led by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF), the City of Albany Police Department, and the New York State Police, authorities seized:
  • More than three pounds of bulk cocaine with an approximate street value of $147,000
  • 35 firearms
  • Over $63,000 in cash
  • Large quantities of drug paraphernalia, including scales, packaging and cutting agents (including Creatine, a supplement used by weight lifters which can add muscle mass, but also can lead to asthmatic symptoms and kidney damage, and “Goody’s Powder,” an over-the-counter pain reliever which contains aspirin, caffeine and acetaminophen)
The indictment charges 19 individuals with 226 crimes, including Operating as a Major Trafficker (which carries a mandatory life sentence in state prison), and various counts of Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (class A and B felonies), and Conspiracy to commit those crimes. The Operating as a Major Trafficker statute (§220.77 of the Penal Law of the State of New York), authored by Attorney General Schneiderman when he was a State Senator, went into effect in November 2009 as part of reforms to the Rockefeller-era drug laws, and is the only felony narcotics charge in the state that carries a possible life sentence.
The two major traffickers allegedly arranged for large quantities of cocaine to be transported from New York City (Brooklyn) to the Capitol Region and, as noted, face mandatory life sentences.
The remaining defendants face maximum sentences between nine and 24 years in prison, depending on the individual’s criminal history.
Those charged in today’s indictment include:
  • Cedric James, of Brooklyn, New York (Charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker)
  • Laquan Wright, of Schenectady, New York (Charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker)
  • Joseph Berghela, of Albany, New York
  • Elijahjuan Cancer, of Albany, New York
  • Derrick Carrington, of Albany, New York
  • Richard Chrise, of Albany, New York
  • Dennis Durham, of Albany, New York
  • Ladawn Harris, of Albany, New York
  • Clifford Jackson, of Schenectady, New York
  • Lewis Labshere, of Schenectady, New York
  • I’Quan Mayo, of Albany, New York
  • Deanna McCargo, of Albany, New York
  • Octavius Mills (Ruecker), of Schenectady, New York
  • Christopher Mozone, of Albany, New York
  • Nekie Ricks, of Albany, New York
  • Summer Saglimbeni, of Schenectady, New York
  • Traevon Shannon, of Albany, New York
  • Meghan Wilkinson, of Schenectady, New York
  • Frances Wright, of Schenectady, New York
The investigation was conducted jointly by OCTF Investigator Maria Johnson, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator William Charles, Deputy Chief Eugene Black and Albany Police Department Detectives Michael Fargione and James Wood, under the supervision of Sgt. Brian Plante and Lt. Richard Gorleski. The investigation was assisted by the New York National Guard Counterdrug Task Force.
The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorneys General Michael Sharpe and Andrew McElwee. under the supervision of OCTF Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff, Upstate OCTF Deputy Chief Maria Moran, and Chief Deputy Attorney General Jason Brown.
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.