JOINT INVESTIGATION INTO EAST COAST PRESCRIPTION NARCOTICS TRAFFICKING NETWORK RESULTS IN 20 ARRESTS
TSA and law enforcement officers in New York and Florida among those charged
Stamford, Conn. – David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, Steven W. Derr, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Field Division, Gregory K. Null, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, and Stamford Police Chief Robert Nivakoff today announced that 20 individuals have been arrested on charges related to their alleged involvement in a conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, a potent and highly-addictive prescription narcotic. Among those arrested are three Transportation Security Administration officers based at airports in Florida and New York, and two law enforcement officers. Sixteen of the 20 defendants were arrested yesterday and earlier today.
“The allegations contained in the affidavits that supported the court-authorized criminal complaints and arrest warrants are noteworthy and disturbing for at least two principal reasons,” stated U.S. Attorney Fein. “First, we allege that, in less than one year, this conspiracy was responsible for the illegal transportation and distribution of tens of thousands of highly-addictive prescription narcotic pills from Florida to users in Connecticut. Second, we have identified and arrested three officers of the Transportation Security Administration and two law enforcement officers, who we allege accepted cash payments in exchange for permitting the illegal drugs and the cash proceeds of the illegal drug trafficking to travel safely, undeterred by airport security or law enforcement. In these times, no one needs to be reminded about how dangerous it is when officers who have sworn to uphold the law accept money to ‘look the other way.’ The Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners have zero-tolerance for corrupt law enforcement officers and corrupt federal employees, and anyone who violates his or her oath and breaks the law will soon find him or herself in a federal courtroom, before a federal judge, answering to federal charges.”
“This investigation not only uncovered the trafficking of diverted pain medications but also exposed the alleged corrupt activities of two law enforcement officers and employees of the Transportation Safety Administration,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Derr. “Prescription pain medication abuse is rampant in New England and this trafficking group allegedly preyed upon the addictions of individuals to line their pockets, while the law enforcement officers are alleged to have sold their badges and abused their authority to further the illegal activities of the organization.”
“Government employees take an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect the people and programs they're entrusted to oversee,” stated DHS OIG Special Agent in Charge Null. “The majority of our employees are honest, dedicated and hard-working individuals. Those employees who choose to violate the law will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted.”
“We have always appreciated our collaborative effort and the expertise of the United States Attorney’s office,” stated Chief Nivakoff. “It is our mutual initiatives and interest in the safety of all communities that have assisted us greatly in lowering our crime rate. Also, the DEA has been an excellent partner in crime reduction in the City of Stamford and it is apparent from the results of our many cooperative investigations and the long reach of federal law enforcement that the city of Stamford is a safer place.”
The arrests are the culmination of “Operation Blue Coast,” an investigation headed by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Bridgeport High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force. According to court documents and statements made in court, in April 2011, the Task Force received information that an individual in possession of a large quantity of oxycodone was traveling from Palm Beach, Fla. to Stamford, Conn. to sell thousands of oxycodone pills. On April 8, 2011, the DEA arrested that individual, who was in possession of approximately 6000 oxycodone pills, in a hotel in Stamford. The arrested individual subsequently revealed that, over the course of approximately one year, he had regularly purchased oxycodone from suppliers in Florida, transported the oxycodone to Connecticut by commercial airline or automobile, and sold the pills to various Connecticut-based narcotics traffickers for higher prices than he had paid in Florida. The individual stated that he traveled from Florida to Connecticut several times a week carrying up to 8000 oxycodone pills per trip. He then used drivers to transport him to and from narcotics transactions during which he would sell all of the pills he transported from Florida. After exchanging low-denomination currency for larger notes, he transported the proceeds of his oxycodone sales from Connecticut to Florida, either by having a courier drive the money or by using commercial airline flights.
The arrested individual also explained that, to ensure the success of the operation, he provided cash and gift cards to certain Transportation Security Agency (“TSA”) officers who screened passsengers and luggage at Palm Beach International Airport (“PBI”) in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Westchester County Airport (“HPN”) in White Plains, New York. The individual admitted that, when flying from PBI to HPN, he provided cash or gift cards to the TSA officers who screened him in order to ensure that he would not be prevented from passing through airport security while he carried oxycodone pills on his person or in his carry-on luggage. He also said he made several payments, totaling more than $20,000, to a Westchester County Police officer in order to ensure that he could carry large quantities of cash, the proceeds of his drug trafficking, through airport security at HPN. The individual further explained that he provided cash to a Florida State Trooper, and gave checks to the trooper’s fiance, in exchange for the trooper’s assurance that individuals who transported narcotics or currency on behalf of the individual would not be detained by law enforcement while driving through Central Florida.
The DEA Task Force, in coordination with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Connecticut, New York and Florida, continued to investigate this narcotics distribution operation with the cooperation of the individual who was arrested in April 2011 and another individual who was subsequently arrested, and through the use of consensually recorded conversations, controlled deliveries of oxycodone, physical surveillance, and examination of rental car and airline records. As a result of the investigation, the following 16 individuals were arrested yesterday or earlier today on criminal complaints charging each with conspiring to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance:
CHRISTOPHER ALLEN, 45, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., a TSA officer based at the Palm Beach International Airport. It is alleged that accepted cash payments in exchange for facilitating the transportation of oxycodone through airport security without detection.
JOHN BEST, also known as “JB,” 30, of Port St. Lucie, Fla., a TSA officer based at the Palm Beach International Airport. It is alleged that BEST accepted cash payments and a gift card in exchange for facilitating the transportation of oxycodone through airport security without detection.
BRIGITTE JONES, 48, of The Bronx, N.Y., a TSA officer based at Westchester County Airport. It is alleged that JONES accepted cash payments and a gift card in exchange for facilitating the transportation of oxycodone and narcotics trafficking proceeds through airport security without detection.
MICHAEL BRADY, 36, of New York, a police officer employed by the Westchester County Department of Public Safety. It is alleged that BRADY accepted cash payments in both Connecticut and New York in exchange for facilitating the transportation of narcotics trafficking proceeds through Westchester County Airport without detection.
JUSTIN KOLVES, 28, of Florida, a Trooper employed by the Florida State Highway Patrol. It is alleged that KOLVES accepted cash payments and checks in exchange for ensuring that others could transport oxycodone and drug trafficking proceeds via automobile through a portion of Florida’s highway system without law enforcement interference. It is alleged that KOLVES also provided “protection” to the individual who headed the oxycodone trafficking conspiracy during what KOLVES believed to be two oxycodone transactions in Connecticut.
JESSICA DOUGLAS, 28, of Florida. It is alleged that DOUGLAS, who is KOLVES’s fiance, assisted the conspiracy, accepted money on KOLVES’ behalf and arranged his transportation to Connecticut where KOLVES was to provide protection.
SAMI NABER, 51, of Yonkers, N.Y. It is alleged that NABER leased and drove rental vehicles to transport oxycodone from New York to Connecticut, narcotics trafficking proceeds from Connecticut to New York, and also to Florida. It is also alleged that he exchanged small denominations of U.S. currency for larger denominations in order to facilitate the transportation of bulk cash.
EMMANUEL BABE, also known as “Manny,” 38, of Mount Kisco, N.Y. It is alleged that BABE transported oxycodone from Florida to Connecticut and narcotics trafficking proceeds from Connecticut to Florida.
WILNER CASTELIN, also known as “Castro,” 42, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It is alleged that CASTELIN transported oxycodone from Florida to Connecticut and narcotics trafficking proceeds from Connecticut to Florida.
BRUCE YAZDZIK, also known as “YB,” 28, of Waterbury, Conn.; DAVID GAUDIOSI, also known as “Wade,” 26, of Waterbury, and PATRICK SERAFINE, 26, of Waterbury, who are each alleged to have purchased large quantities of oxycodone from members of the conspiracy, which they then distributed to street-level narcotics dealers.
MARIVETTE ALICEA, 21 of Waterbury; CHRISTOPHER RODERICK, 31, of Canterbury, Conn.; STEVEN STOPPER, 46, of Naugatuck, Conn., and KEVIN LUND, 38, of Naugatuck, who also are alleged to have been involved in the illegal purchase and distribution of oxycodone.
If convicted of the charge of conspiring to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone, each defendant faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $1 million.
In addition, BERNARD FAMIGLIETTI, 49, of Watebury, and SANDRA CANFIELD, 30, of Waterbury, were arrested during the course of the investigation and charged with possession with intent to distribute oxycodone, a charge that also carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $1 million.
U.S. Attorney Fein stressed that a complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Bridgeport High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, which includes personnel from the Connecticut State Police and the Bridgeport, Milford, Norwalk, Stamford and Westport Police Departments; the Drug Enforcement Administration in Florida and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General. In addition, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Greenwich, Monroe, Danbury and Waterbury Police Departments have assisted the investigation.
U.S. Attorney Fein also acknowledged the cooperation of the Westchester County Department of Public Safety and the Florida Highway Patrol, and the substantial assistance provided by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and Assistant United States Attorneys Steve Carlton and Emalyn Webber.
This case is being prosecuted in the District of Connecticut by Assistant United States Attorneys Rahul Kale and Tracy Lee Dayton.
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