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Press Release

New Jersey Man Sentenced to 168 Months for Cocaine Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of New York

ALBANY, NEW YORK – Richard “Richie” Sinde, age 59, of Fort Lee, New Jersey, was sentenced today to 168 months in prison, to be followed by 5 years of supervised release, for conspiring to traffic about 15 kilograms of cocaine in March and April 2021.

United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman and Frank A. Tarentino III, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New York Division, made the announcement.

Sinde, and Jeffrey Civitello Sr. and Jeffrey C. Civitello Jr., both of Schenectady, New York, were convicted on all counts following an 8-day trial in April 2023. Sinde has prior federal convictions for heroin trafficking and unauthorized use of stolen credit cards, and prior state convictions for arson, enterprise corruption, conspiracy, and criminal tax fraud.

The trial evidence demonstrated a conspiracy between five men: the three defendants on trial, as well as Christopher J. Kelly, of Brooklyn, New York, and Robert J. Ingrao, of Lodi, New Jersey. 

As part of the conspiracy, Kelly and Sinde delivered 3 kilograms of cocaine to Civitello Sr. in Schenectady on March 29, and Kelly and Sinde an additional 3 kilograms to Civitello Sr. on March 31. Also on March 31, the Civitellos ordered more cocaine and suggested that Kelly use a 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee owned by Civitello Jr., which contained, in its trunk, a sophisticated, hidden compartment, also known as a “trap.” Unbeknownst to the conspirators, the DEA had placed a court-authorized tracker on the Jeep several months prior, as part of an investigation of Civitello Jr.

Sinde then drove the Jeep from Schenectady to Fort Lee, and the following evening met Kelly in Breezy Point, New York, on the Rockaway Peninsula, where Kelly and Sinde loaded up the Jeep’s hidden compartment with 9 kilograms of cocaine to be delivered the following day to the Civitellos in Schenectady. 

The following day, on April 2, 2021, Ingrao went to Sinde’s house and got into the blue Jeep, driving it north on Interstate 87.  A New York State Police Trooper, at the DEA’s request, conducted a stop on Ingrao in Greene County.  The Trooper then located 9 kilograms of cocaine in the Jeep’s hidden compartment.

As part of the conspiracy, the Civitellos were arranging for a “trap” to be installed in another Jeep used by Sinde, so that Sinde could continue to traffic drugs to the Civitellos after Kelly went to state prison for a prior cocaine case; they abandoned that plan following the seizure of 9 kilograms of cocaine from Civitello Jr.’s Jeep on April 2.

United States District Judge Mae A. D’Agostino previously imposed the following sentences in this case:

  • Civitello Sr. was sentenced to 120 months in prison, to be followed by a 4-year term of supervised release.
  • Kelly was sentenced to 41 months in prison, to be followed by a 4-year term of supervised release, and to pay a $25,000 fine.
  • Ingrao was sentenced to 37 months in prison, to be followed by a 3-year term of supervised release. 

Civitello Jr. is scheduled to be sentenced on March 5, 2024.

This case was investigated by the DEA’s Capital District Drug Enforcement Task Force, which includes DEA Special Agents and investigators from state and local police agencies, including the Saratoga Springs Police Department, the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, and the New York State Police. 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Barnett and Dustin C. Segovia are prosecuting this case.

Updated December 19, 2023

Drug Trafficking