CENTRAL ISLIP, NY (PIX11)—There's a lot less heroin moving on Long Island today after an early morning takedown of a three million dollar drug ring that stretched from the Dominican Republic to Queens, Massachusettes to Brooklyn, all headed for Long Island buyers. Twenty traffickers have been indicted--from an NYPD officer's husband to a 68-year-old retired cop to a Hofstra Honor student. Some could spend life in prison if convicted.
One by one the defendants came into the Federal Courthouse and plead not guilty. From low level street dealers, to the men who cut the heroin for sale, to those who arranged the sale and distribution, to the masterminds of the operation.
Kathryn Pappas, a Hofstra student who lives on campus, mouthed to her mother sitting in court with an attorney, "I want to go home."
While the Pappas family lives in a multimillion dollar home inside a swanky gated community in Jericho, it will take days to pull together a bail package that uses the family home for security to spring Pappas.
"Today's heroin is said to be 15 times more pure than in the 70's and a potentially lethal dose can be purchased for about the cost of a pack of cigarettes or a 6 pack of beer," declared Janice Fedarcyk, with the New York FBI Office. She was joined by representatives from five law enforcement agencies all part of a drug sting operation.
The heavyweight Perez Drug Organization was crippled this morning as 18 suspects were arrested for their part in fueling the growing heroin appetites on Long Island. Jose Perez is the alleged ringleader.
Loretta Lynch, the US Attorney for the Eastern District spearheaded the operation. "Those arrested include a retired Suffolk County Marine Bureau officer and his daughter, a married couple from Farmingville, a Hofstra College honor student from Jericho and young woman from Massapequa who allegedly sold heroin from her family's restaurant parking lot,"' said Lynch.
They moved nearly three million dollars worth of poisonous product during a nine month investigation that officers say nailed the suspects in hundreds of hours of wiretaps. Included in the round up was a 68-year-old retired Suffolk county Police Officer and his 37 year old daughter, Roland and Corey Stern, who live in a tidy Blue Point neighborhood. Many neighbors didn't want to talk on camera, but Lea Fiaco, on her way to class said, "Maybe he knew how to work it since he was a cop. How to avoid things."
Nassau County Police Chief Steven Skrynecki's officers were a part of many of the arrests, including the low level initial arrest that turn a suspect into an informant for law enforcement. "It's always very upsetting to see any member of law enforcement cross the line."
The investigation started with "Operation Smack Down" in Nassau County and grew to five law enforcement agencies and multiple communities in Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island. And they believe the Perez organization's killer heroin is responsible for overdose deaths, possibly even that of Massapequa honor student Natalie Ciappa.
Fedarcyk reminded all in attendance at today's press conference of the killer side of heroin, "Natalie died at a Seaford party days before she would graduate high school . But 46 people in all died in Nassau County of heroin overdose that year."