Schenectady County

Drug busts a joint effort

The large-scale area drug operations taken down since early May had many things in common, but a cri

The large-scale area drug operations taken down since early May had many things in common, but a critical one was their size, officials said.

With size, comes power, but also vulnerability, they said.

“When you’ve got a lot of people involved on the organization side and on the customer side,” Schenectady Police Department spokesman Lt. Brian Kilcullen said, “the result of that tends to be they get noticed a little more readily.”

In the two busts alone, one in May and the other this week, a total of 43 people were arrested, including many from Schenectady County.

In the May indictments, 24 people were arrested, including alleged heads Kerry Kirkem and Oscar Mora. Mora has since pleaded guilty.

The Schenectady end of this week’s case was allegedly headed by Walter Smiley, of Rotterdam. That case saw 19 people arrested.

That case was also notable for the amount of drugs seized: 20 pounds of cocaine and 140 pounds of marijuana, with an estimated value of $1.7 million.

Both operations were taken down through a coordinated effort between the state police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team and local police agencies. It is that coordination that officials said makes such investigations easier. Information is shared.

Both cases started with simple beginnings: traffic stops and police intelligence. Those led to wiretaps, used effectively to pinpoint shipments and make arrests. They both also relied to a large degree on cellphones, exposing them more to the court-ordered taps.

But, even before they get wiretap authorization, authorities have already built a formidable case, state police Lt. Michael Tietz said. He called the taps the icing on the cake.

Asked if the two cases indicate that police are getting better, or if the drug suspects were getting sloppy, Tietz said that was difficult to say.

“It comes down to hard police work and using all the tools at our disposal to make a good, solid case,” he said. “This isn’t the last case.”

Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney concurred, saying the drug market remains.

Arraignments continued in Schenectady County Court Friday. Among them were alleged marijuana distributor Dillan Francis, 40, of the Bronx, and Christopher Flint, 29, of Fonda, who allegedly purchased large quantities of cocaine from Smiley.

Judge Karen Drago ordered Flint held on $100,000 bail, citing his criminal record and lack of ties to Schenectady.

Francis, was ordered held on $15,000 bail. Drago noted a lack of significant criminal history for him. Francis is employed as an iron worker, working on the Yankee Stadium project, his attorney Lee Greenstein told Drago. Several family members also attended.

Law enforcement, however, will continue to have dealers to go after as long as there are buyers, Carney said.

Schenectady County, he said, has a resident drug user population.

“In our experience, other dealers will come in and take the place of dealers who have been put away,” Carney said. “We hope it’s harder to obtain product and that people will perceive the risk of dealing and think twice about their high-risk activity.”

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