A 13-month drug investigation culminated Thursday in the indictment of 24 people on drug charges, including the wife and stepson of a former Schenectady police chief.
In a series of sweeps, federal, state and local police arrested 17 of the 24 indicted. Four others, including the two alleged ring leaders, were arrested in March. Three are being sought.
They are accused of taking part in a highly-organized cocaine and heroin distribution operation with roots on Schenectady’s North Side, but reaching throughout the Capital Region.
Drug ring indictment
To read the entire text of the grand jury indictment, click here.
The operation was so sophisticated, authorities said, that members were responsible for specific duties, including driving cocaine and heroin from Long Island, and had designated supervisors to manage the operation.
Dealers even sold cocaine in shifts, with dealers vying for choice time slots, officials said.
At the head of the operation, officials said, were Kerry Kirkem, 40, and Oscar Mora, 30. Both were arrested in March on high-level drug counts, the first public indication of the investigation.
Officials likened the operation to that of a drug corporation.
“But,” federal Drug Enforcement Administration official James Burns said, “instead of providing goods, this organization supplied poison through the streets of Schenectady and the Capital Region.”
Burns made the comments at an afternoon news conference in Albany attended by representatives of all the involved agencies.
The 24 indicted were all sought as part of “Operation Slim Chance,” headed by the state Attorney General’s Office. It was named apparently for the street name used by Kirkem. The operation was part of the Attorney General’s Guns, Gangs and Drugs Initiative.
Seized in the operation were 58 ounces of cocaine, 1,600 small bags of heroin, a semi-automatic assault rifle and a handgun. The value of the drugs was placed at nearly $200,000. Cash was also seized amounting to more than $22,000. Some of the evidence was on display Thursday at the news conference outside the Capitol office of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
The investigation began in early 2007 with simple traffic stops in Saratoga and Greene counties, state police Lt. Michael Tietz said, and it grew from there.
Tietz, of the state police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team, credited work from all the agencies, but he singled out for praise state police Investigator Chris Gilroy and DEA Agent Terry Dunlap.
Gilroy, especially, Tietz said, worked the case from the ground up, helping identify all involved and leading to the crucial wiretaps.
“The wiretaps really confirmed what we suspected,” Tietz said.
Kirkem and Mora were taken down in March, along with two people described as street-level workers, Misty Gallo and Gary Cherny.
Those arrested Thursday were all described as lower-level participants.
Mora and Kirkem, Tietz said, met in prison, starting the operation shortly after. Both were in prison at the same time in the late 1990s and in 2000, records show. Mora was released in late 2001.
Lisa Kaczmarek, Tietz said, was believed to be street-level, selling to her own circle of clients. She is the wife of former Schenectady police chief Gregory Kaczmarek. Her son, Miles Smith, was also charged with selling and moving drugs.
The indictment charges that Kirkem and Mora were in charge of the Schenectady-based organization, which obtained its cocaine and heroin from Long Island supplier Maximo “Max” Doe. Officials said the group did business in Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, Montgomery, Columbia and Warren counties.
In Warren County, officials believe an overdose death was from drugs sold by the ring.
Sealed indictments were handed up Wednesday afternoon, given to Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago by a representative of the state Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force, paving the way for Thursday morning’s arrests.
The organization allegedly used several “stash houses” where they would store narcotics and weapons. Addresses at 1822 Avenue A, third-floor and 206 Union St., Apt. 9, were named.
Authorities also named five residences as drug sale locations: 1044 University Place, Apt. 4 and 5; 514 Hegeman St., 2nd and 3rd floor apartments; 2 Huron Court, Apt. 118; 1652 Van Vranken Ave., first floor; and 1228 Union St., Apt. 1.
In custody Thursday and their alleged roles:
* Kerry Kirkem, 40, of Van Vranken Avenue, in charge;
* Oscar Mora, 30, of Plank Road, Waterford, in charge;
* Hazel Nader, 42, of University Place, Schenectady, a manager;
* Daniel Evans, 26, of Schenectady, a worker;
* Misty Gallo, 23, of Huron Court, Schenectady, a worker;
* Hector Gomez, 24, of Foster Avenue, Schenectady, a worker;
* Lisa Kaczmarek, 48, of Roma Street, Schenectady, a freelance dealer;
* Lisa Perkins, 33, of Hegeman Street, Schenectady, a worker;
* Melford Perkins, 36, of Hegeman Street, Schenectady, a worker;
* Kareem Reid, 26, of Foster Avenue, Schenectady, a worker;
* Todd Rodriguez, 21, of Schenectady, a worker;
* Miles Smith, 20, of Schenectady, a worker;
* Michelle Hernandez Soto, 30, of University Place, Schenectady, a worker;
* Israel Torres, 25, of University Place, Schenectady, a worker;
* Steven Torres, 22, of Maplewood Avenue, Schenectady, a worker and a mule;
* Lizvette Brenes, 33, of Maplewood Avenue, Schenectady, a mule;
* Gary Cherny, 25, of Avenue A, Schenectady, a worker who maintained a stash house;
* Leah Armenia, 25, of Union Street, Schenectady, maintained a stash house;
* Bernard Ryan, 46, of Clement Road, Schenectady, responsible for cooking crack cocaine;
* Christopher Toogood, 24, of Union Street, Schenectady, allowed sales from his residence.
* Maximo “Max” Doe, 29, of Felway Drive, Coram, the alleged source;
* Wilfred Cordero, 30, of Hegeman Street, a worker;
* Ronald Hughes, 25, of Huron Court, Schenectady, a worker.