New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, at podium, joined by members of law enforcement, including State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico, right, announce the seizure of $200,000 worth of cocaine in Operation North Star. The police seized almost 2,000 grams of cocaine in the bust and likely prevented a murder as they shut down a major Capital Region drug ring. Photo by Clara A. Smith.
February 11, 2013Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, aided by State Police and other law enforcement agencies, orchestrated 31 arrests and announced 226 indictments to break up an Albany drug ring. Two of the defendants have also been charged with conspiracy to commit murder after wiretaps uncovered an alleged murder plot.
During the 11-month investigation, code-named "Operation North Star," police seized 1,982 grams of cocaine with an approximate street value of $200,000, more than $100,000 in cash that was generated through cocaine trafficking, three vehicles, a bulletproof vest and a hand gun allegedly to be used in an imminent murder.
Schneiderman referred to this as, "a take down of one of the most violent criminal enterprises [police and investigators] have encountered in some time."
Operation North Star began as an investigation of a street level cocaine deal in Arbor Hill, an Albany neighborhood near the Capitol. Police soon determined this seemed to be a much more dangerous enterprise, with suspects transporting large quantities of drugs from New York City and distributing them in the Capital Region.
This multi-layered conspiracy was very well orchestrated, Schneiderman said, as the defendants constantly changed phones and locations in an effort to avoid detection.
"These networks created a pipeline of illegal drugs from New York City to the Capital Region that polluted our communities. Operation North Star shut down this massive criminal enterprise and stopped the flow of these dangerous narcotics," said Schneiderman. "Because of the hard work of my office's investigators, along with the state police and Albany police, we have gotten these violent drug dealers and distributors off the streets and into custody."
The murder plot, planned to take place in Albany in September 2012, was overheard on the wiretaps by police. Police were able to intercept the plot and seize the gun allegedly to be used without compromising the investigation.
Defendants Emerald Cancer and Rondell Jackson are alleged to have conspired to lure the intended victim of the murder plot; Santonieo Miller Jr., to a secluded location in order to shoot him. To get Miller to this location, he was told they were meeting to rob a third party. It is believed that the motive for the plot to kill Miller was drug related.
"On the wiretaps, the team came to understand that there was an actual murder plot underway, not one of those things where people are talking and boasting," said Schneiderman. "One of the best pieces of police work I have seen in a while was the ability of our team to stop the murder just as it was about to take place and not let that compromise the ongoing investigation."
In addition to the conspiracy to commit murder, the indictment, which was unsealed last week in Albany County Court, contains 226 counts and charges 31 people with a number of drug related charges including criminal sale and criminal possession of a controlled substance and conspiracy in the second degree in relation to their involvement in the cocaine trafficking network. One of the defendants, Andrew Smith is charged with operating as a major trafficker, which carries the potential of a life sentence, according to information from Schneiderman's office.
"This is about street violence, this is about people that sell drugs, end up with the money and use weapons to enforce it," said Albany Chief of Police Steven Krokoff.
These arrests and indictments are the culmination of an investigation that is part of the attorney general's office ongoing efforts to combat narcotic trafficking and other crimes through the Organized Crime Task Force's Upstate Guns, Gangs and Drugs Initiative.
"I applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the New York State Police and the Albany Police Department for their hard work in taking down a massive drug ring which resulted in a 226-count indictment," said Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings. "Today, the Capital Region is a safer place because of this teamwork, and I commend everyone involved with this case for their unwavering dedication and support of public safety in New York state's capital city."