Dozens face charges after gang sweep
Authorities say those arrested are connected to violent multi-state drug ring
By Robert Gavin
Updated 11:14 p.m., Tuesday, March 27, 2012, published in the Times Union
ALBANY — Police charged dozens of reputed Albany gang members and associates Tuesday in a large-scale takedown of a violent multi-state drug ring tied to 27 shootings, three killings and two shootings at police officers.
In early morning sweeps, investigators working for state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman charged 52 defendants, including alleged members of the South End-based Original Gangsta Killas and Bloods street gangs.
The bust netted a reputed Bloods member who works for the SNUG anti-violence organization, one alleged associate of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang in Vermont and the wife of notorious drug dealer Michael "Murder" Hoffler, who was accused of killing police informant Christopher Drabik in 2003.
It is the largest crackdown in the history of the attorney general's Organized Crime Task Force, officials said.
"Shutting this down has made our state safer," Schneiderman told reporters at a news conference Tuesday, joined by State Police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico, Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, Police Chief Steven Krokoff and several of the 18 guns seized in the bust. "This is one of the most violent, vicious and ambitious criminal enterprises we've ever seen."
The 261-count indictment included allegations that defendants sold large amounts of heroin, cocaine and prescription painkillers such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and Percocet. The ring dealt drugs from New York City to Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Warren, Greene, Orange and Rockland counties.
The ring would rent hotel rooms where they hired underlings to "bag massive quantities of drugs," said Schneiderman, who said defendants were caught on tape discussing "dividing up their territories."
More than 150 officers hit at least 60 locations in Albany, Cohoes, Troy, New York City and Bennington, Vt. The case was dubbed "Operation OGK," after the street gang. In 2009, federal prosecutors in Albany charged 25 members and associates of the "downtown"-based gang with racketeering that included wide drug-dealing and 14 shooting incidents. That followed a 2006 racketeering case against the Jungle Junkies, OGK's "uptown"-based rivals in West Hill and Arbor Hill.
One of Tuesday's defendants, reputed OGK member Jamel Pearson, 34, of Albany, known as "Melly Mel," allegedly planned to use a handgun to shoot uptown rivals to avenge the Nov. 29 murder of Richard "50 Cent" Gibbs, an OGK-linked drug dealer, in Albany. Gibbs, who had served four years in prison for selling cocaine, would have been part of Tuesday's indictment, authorities said.
Authorities said Pearson was set to get the gun from defendant Mario Perez, 34, of Troy, who was storing the weapon with another defendant, Christopher Padelsky, 38, of Troy.
Schneiderman cited thousands of hours of wiretaps in which the defendants would "openly talk about trying to get weapons to retaliate against each other." He said authorities needed to act quickly to get the defendants off the street or risk more bloodshed.
"These people were shooters — they were out shooting each other," the attorney general said. "We know that there are at least 27 confirmed shootings associated with this enterprise, two officer shootings and three fatalities among them."
Details on the shootings, other than the Gibbs killing, were not immediately disclosed.
Schneiderman said the case began with a tip to Albany police, who contacted the attorney general's task force, he said, noting the trail of smaller drug dealers led investigators to the top of the chain.
Perez had been among five defendants charged as major traffickers of narcotics, which means they could face life in prison if convicted. The other four were Anthony "Ant" Lugo, 37, of Manhattan, allegedly at the top of the drug ring; Guy Anderson, 34, of Albany, allegedly the leader of the ring in Albany; Haneef Washington, 32, of Albany, who has alleged ties to both the Bloods and OGK; and Michael "Jigga" Williams, 26, of Albany, a reputed Bloods member.
The charges for all 52 defendants included conspiracy, drug dealing and attempted drug dealing. Evidence at prosecutors' disposal includes wiretaps from an investigation that lasted more than six months and a chart detailing connections between defendants.
One defendant, Gilbert Pilet, 25, of Albany, known as "HB," works for the city-and-state-funded SNUG anti-violence program. Trinity Alliance Chief Executive Officer Harris Oberlander says Pilet had only been an outreach worker there since Monday. Trinity oversees SNUG. Pilet was charged with second-degree conspiracy and drug counts.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's good that we identified him early," said Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings. "I'm sure he would have stood out in the (scope) of things."
The bust included Muslima Hoffler, 31, of Troy, the wife of Hoffler, who was charged with second-degree conspiracy, which carries up to 25 years in prison, and Travis Nutbrown, 33, of Vermont, identified by authorities as a Hells Angels associate. Michael Hoffler is serving a 15- to 30-year sentence in state prison for drug dealing.
Another defendant in Tuesday's indictment was Jerry Cooley, who was shot in August 2007 on a porch in the South End. He had been wounded with Deontint Davis, who was critically wounded and later died.
Defendants were arraigned before Albany County Judge Stephen Herrick, with Assistant Deputy Attorney General Michael Sharpe representing Schneiderman's office.
It marks the office's second major gang case in the last 18 months. In September 2010, under then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, 41 members and associates of the Bloods were charged with a series of drug-related crimes. All have taken guilty pleas or been convicted.
The investigation, directed by Organized Crime Task Force Special Investigator Dennis Guiry, included Special Investigator William Charles, Deputy Chief Investigator Gene Black, Chief Dominick Zarrella, Albany Police Commander Anthony Ryan, Lt. Jeff Roberts, Sgts. Brian Quinn and Ed O'Leary, Detectives John Monte and James Wood; and State Police Senior Investigator Samuel Mercado and Lt. Michael Tietz.
Police from Troy and Bennington, Vt., the Rensselaer County Task Force, New York National Guard Counterdrug Task Force; and the U.S. Marshals Service also were involved.
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1) Guy Anderson, 34, Albany: 17 counts, including conspiracy, drug charges and being a major trafficker, carrying possible life sentence
2) Anthony Lugo, 37, Manhattan: 4 counts, including being a major trafficker, conspiracy and selling drugs
3) Mario Perez, 34, Troy: 66 counts, including major trafficker, conspiracy, weapon possession, drug counts
4) Michael "Jigga" Williams, 26, Albany: reputed Blood faces 26 counts, including being a major trafficker, conspiracy, drug counts
5) Haneef Washington, 32, Albany: 25 counts, including being a major trafficker, conspiracy, weapon possession and drug counts. Allegedly tied to Bloods gang.
6) Gaston Avendano-Nilo, 27, Ellenville: 4 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
7) Allen Bace, 29, Albany: reputed OGK member faces 8 counts, including conspiracy and drug sale.
8) Randy Beach, 36, Rensselaer: 2 counts, including conspiracy and drug possession
9) Raquel Brace, 23, Albany: 4 counts, including conspiracy, drug charges
10) Richard Cabrera, 38, Albany: 2 counts, including drug sales
11) Richard Collier, 20, Glens Falls: 5 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
12) Jerry Cooley, 31, Albany: alleged OGK associate; 2 counts of conspiracy and drug charge
13) James Crew, 24, Troy: 7 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
14) Charles Faust, 42, Saugerties: 4 counts, including conspiracy, drug charges
15) Drew Green, 34, Troy: 3 counts, incluiding conspiracy and drug charges
16) Lamont Green, 35, Albany: 1 count, conspiracy
17) Charles Guadalupe, 40, Kerhonkson: 3 counts, conspiracy and drug charge.
18) Ashanti Harris, 26, Newburgh: 2 counts, conspiracy and drug charge
19) Bethany Haynes, 27, Vermont: 3 counts, conspiracy and drug possession
20) Muslima Hoffler, 31, Troy: 5 counts, including conspiracy and drug counts
21) Phil Hollendonner, 49, Vermont: 4 counts, including conspiracy, drug charges
22) Tahreen Jeanotte, 28, Albany: alleged OGK member faces 2 counts, including conspiracy and drug charge
23) Jasmine Johnson, 34, Albany: 12 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
24) Marquese Johnson, 35, Albany: reputed OGK member faces 6 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
25) Chester Jones, 34, Albany: reputed Bloods member faces 3 counts, including conspiracy, drug charges
26) Elshay Jones, 26, Albany: 2 counts, including conspiracy and drug charge
27) Aleshia "Lisa" Keener, 27, Schenectady: 3 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
28) James Keyes, 21, Albany: 3 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
29) Brandon Langston, 32, Albany: 3 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
30) Justin Laurel, 30, Wawarsing: 4 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
31) Terrance Lee, 22, Troy: 7 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
32) Michael Marable, 30, Albany: alleged OGK associate faces 4 counts, including drug charges
33) Kevin "Kunta" Mason, 34, Schenectady: 5 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
34) Matthew McQuain, 43, Glens Falls: 5 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
35) William Mendez, 34, the Bronx: 6 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
36) Lauren Murray, 23, Albany: 3 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
37) Travis Nutbrown, 33, Vermont: alleged associate of Hells Angels; 7 counts, including conspiracy, drug charges
38) Christopher Padelsky, 38, Troy: 2 counts, weapon possession and drug charge
39) Dayerling Paez, 24, Troy: 4 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
40) Jamel Pearson, 24, Troy; reputed OGK member faces 8 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
41) Gilbert "HB" Pilet, 25, Albany: reputed Bloods member faces 7 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
42) Jeffrey Pitts, 41, Saratoga Springs: 1 drug count
43) Franklin Russell, 39, Schenectady: 5 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
44) Jesus "Jose" Santiago, 26, Troy: 15 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
45) David Sibincich, 53, Troy: 10 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
46) Schyla Silburn, 39, Albany: 1 count of conspiracy
47) Gaelen Smiley, 38, Rensselaer: 9 counts, including conspiracy, drug charges
48) Anthony Smith, 39, Watervliet: 4 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
49) Anthony Taylor, 31, Albany: 3 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
50) Davon Tolliver, 32, Poughkeepsie: 3 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
51) Richard Williams, 36, Albany: alleged OGK associate faces 3 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges
52) Christopher Zielinski, 47, East Greenbush: 13 counts, including conspiracy and drug charges