Organized Crime Task Force Leads Six-county Narcotics Sweep

State Attorney General Spitzer, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, Oswego County District Attorney Donald Dodd, Monroe County District Attorney Michael Green, Lewis County District Attorney Michael Young, and Oneida County District Attorney Michael Arcuri today announced that narcotics trafficking charges have been filed against 104 defendants alleged to be figures in major drug distribution networks that stretch across New York State.

"This drug network had arms distributing cocaine, heroin, crack and ecstacy in communities across the region," Spitzer said. "Thanks to remarkable cooperation by a number of agencies, we are dismantling a major source of drugs and crime in Central New York."

Onondaga County District Attorney William J. Fitzpatrick said: "I applaud and compliment the various agencies who worked tirelessly on this investigation. The size and scope of this investigation demonstrates the level of cooperation amongst law enforcement agencies in Central New York needed to take this poison and its dealers off the street."

Oswego County District Attorney Donald Dodd said: "The price of drug sales is measured in the criminal conduct of the users and addicts to obtain money to feed their habits. That price is paid in Oswego County by countless innocent victims who have individuals steal and burglarize to feed that drug habit. The efforts by the OCTF and the Attorney General's office definitely help in that fight. Drug sellers and users don't stop at county boundary lines."

Monroe County District Attorney Michael Green said: "We are pleased to have Attorney General Spitzer's Organized Crime Task Force as part of our crime fighting team in Rochester. The efforts of the task force, and their expertise and resources regarding sophisticated covert surveillance, led to the seizure of drugs, guns, and money from the streets of our community. In addition, their efforts contributed to the arrest and indictment of defendants charged with running an extensive drug
organization here with ties to New York City. We have a strong history of cooperation between law enforcement agencies in our efforts to fight crime and violence, and this investigation is yet another example of Attorney General Spitzer's participation in those efforts."

Lewis County District Attorney Michael F. Young said: "State and local agencies worked together to crack down on illegal drug activity. This is the beginning - those dealing with illegal drugs are now on notice. This type of activity will not be tolerated in Lewis County."

Oneida County District Attorney Michael A. Arcuri said: "These arrests are another example of separate and distinct enforcement agencies working hand-in-hand to benefit our community and bring justice to those poisoning our neighborhoods with illegal drugs."

Six separate cases are being prosecuted as part of the OCTF's initiative cracking down on the Upstate flow of cocaine and other narcotics through New York City, and the gang violence that stems from distribution rings from Niagara Falls to Albany.

OCTF has attacked this problem through the aggressive use of sophisticated covert surveillance, including wiretaps, and bugs as part of a cooperative approach with local law enforcement. Since launching this effort, the Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) has charged over 900 defendants, seized more than 500 firearms, and taken over $100 million in illegal drugs off Upstate streets.

The cases announced today are centered in Cayuga, Lewis, Monroe, Oneida, Onondaga, and Oswego counties:

Central New York

In Onondaga County, an investigation resulted in the indictment of Victor Manuel Batista Sanchez, 38, of Syracuse, and 20 others, charging them for their roles in obtaining multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine for distribution in Syracuse. Batista Sanchez has been charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, a class "A-I" felony.

A second investigation into alleged cocaine trafficking activity in Oswego, Cayuga and Westchester counties has resulted in the indictment of 17 individuals in Oswego County.

The third investigation focuses on alleged cocaine trafficking activity in Onondaga and Oswego counties and New York City. Dwight Absolom, 40, of Liverpool, Matthew Mastro, 33, of Volney, Jason Knopp, 29, of Martville and 13 other defendants are charged in an indictment in Onondaga County with obtaining cocaine in New York City and transporting it back to Oswego and Onondaga Counties for re-sale. Absolom and Mastro have both been charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, a class "A-I" felony. Knopp has been charged with Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class "B" felony.

A fourth investigation involves the alleged trafficking of cocaine and ecstacy in Onondaga, Oswego and Cayuga counties, and has resulted in felony complaints being issued that charge 15 individuals with Conspiracy and related drug offenses.

Greater Rochester

A fifth investigation is centered in Monroe County. Nine defendants have been indicted as part of a cocaine trafficking organization, including the alleged ring-leaders, Filipe Nobrega, 40, and his brothers Orlando, 42 and Rogerio 39, all of Rochester. The Nobregas are each charged with Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class "B" felony.


North Country / Mohawk Valley

In the sixth investigation, a Lewis County grand jury has returned three indictments charging 13 individuals for their participation in cocaine trafficking. Ken Lanzara, 35, has been charged with Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree; Ben Damuth, 31, has been charged with Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree; and Phillip Damuth, 56, has been charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree, all class "A-II" felonies.

The investigations leading to the charges announced today are being carried out by the OCTF, and investigators from the New York State Police, the Onondaga County District Attorney's office, the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Marshal's Service, the Syracuse Police Department, the Finger Lakes Drug Task Force, the Cayuga County Sheriff's Department, the City of Auburn Police Department, the Oswego County Drug Task Force, the Fulton Police Department, the Oswego County Sheriff's Department, Onondaga County Sheriff's Department, Lewis County Sheriff's Department, the Rochester Police Department, the Greater Rochester-Area Narcotics Enforcement Team ("GRANET"), Metro Jefferson Drug Task Force, the Connecticut State Police, and the Connecticut State Attorneys in Litchfield Connecticut.

The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant Deputy Attorneys General James Mindell, Gordon Cuffy and Irene Bardot, of the Organized Crime Task Force under the supervision of J. Christopher Prather, the head of the Task Force.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Attorney General Spitzer expressed his gratitude to all of the investigators on the case. In particular, Attorney General Spitzer extended his thanks to the following case agents: Investigator John Pignone, New York State Police; Investigator Doug Davis, New York State Police; Detective William Quigley, Cayuga County Sheriff's Office; Officer Roger Anthony, Auburn City Police Department; Detective Robert Weigand, Syracuse Police Department; Officer Andrew Santell, GRANET; Deputy Michael Hogan, GRANET.

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