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North Country drug bust leads to 26 arrests; seven still sought

Julia Botero
Four drug rings were connected in an elaborate and successful drug operation

Thirty-three drug dealers have been indicted for operating drug rings that funneled heroin and cocaine into St. Lawrence County. Thursday in Watertown, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman congratulated his organized crime task force and a team of state and local police for shutting down a major drug operation in the North Country. 

  Police are calling the the multi-agency investigation that led to the arrests Operation 315.  It involved hundreds of hours of wiretaps and physically following  the young suspects  who allegedly worked as a team to bring in and sell drugs in the North Country.

Inside the Dulles Office Building in Watertown, Schneiderman stood next to a table filled with bags of seized heroin and cocaine. On his left was a collection of mug shots of the alleged drug dealers  who made up four interconnected drug pipelines.

“These people had one purpose and that was to procure drugs from around the state and even outside the state but it was all to sell to people here,” Schneiderman said.

Two kilos with a street value of $500,000 was seized in the bust.

Over several years, drugs came from Massachusetts, the New York City area and Syracuse. The investigation revealed that one defendant purchased heroin in Leominster, Massachusetts and brought it to the  Potsdam area to sell.

One defendant allegedly concealed the heroin he delivered from New York City in the lining of the trunk of a 2008 Cadillac CTS. Two brothers concealed cocaine inside a lint brush in their car. Another alleged dealer who is disabled  hid heroin in the seat of his wheelchair.

As of Thursday afternoon, 26 have been arrested and  seven were still being sought. Most of the indicted are in their early 20s. The youngest is 18. They look even younger in their mug shots. One has a lip piercing, some have tussled hair and round baby face.

Schneiderman said shutting down four separate connected rings with four separate indictments is a major achievement.

“This is going to have an immediate affect and I think there are going to be a lot of drug users unable to find narcotics because we shut down the entire ring of dealership, “ he said.

But he also remarked ending the heroin epidemic in New York is going to take more than arrests.

“You cannot prosecute your way out of the epidemic. "

Overdoses killed more than 2,000 New Yorkers in 2011.  Schneiderman says the state's program to curb the abuse of prescription drugs will help slow the root cause of the epidemic: addiction.