In Detective Lt. Kurt Conroy’s 20 years on the Amsterdam police force, he had never seen an operation of the magnitude carried out early today.
Search warrants served at five locations in the city resulted in a dozen arrests and the seizure of bundles of heroin, an eight-ball of cocaine, more than a pound of marijuana, two stolen handguns, $1,000 in cash and several cars, all in the space of one morning.
“This is the largest number of search warrants executed simultaneously that I’ve ever seen,” Conroy said.
Tuesday morning’s arrests are the result of a five-month investigation into gang activity that involved surveillance and community tips. To get the job done, Amsterdam police called in a long list of fellow law-enforcement agencies, including the state police Community Narcotics Enforcement and Special Operations teams, as well as uniformed troopers, SWAT teams from Montgomery County and Schenectady and the FBI Capital District Gang Task Force.
“SWAT made the initial entries,” said Robert Leary of the state police, who participated in the searches, “You want to send in the people with the most training first, because there is always the potential for violence.”
No one was injured during the arrests, however.
“On a gang level, [the series of arrests] is one of a kind,” said Amsterdam police Chief Gregory Culick.
In his time as a police officer, Culick said drug- and gang-related activity has become more structured in Amsterdam. Some of those arrested were active members of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation. Know simply as the Latin Kings, the nationwide gang is popular in the state.
Counting those members arrested, Det. Michael Cole, the department's gang expert, said there are between 20 and 30 members operating out of the city.
“Some of the names on that list peaked FBI interest,” Culick said, “That’s why they were here.”
While such busts may be rare in Amsterdam, Major Wayne Olson of the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team has taken part in many across the area.
“Unfortunately, this is a fairly common formula,” he said, “Put drugs and guns together and all you get is negative impact for the community.”
Young children present at many of the searched locations were taken in by family without social services involvement.
Those arrested include:
• Peter D. Santos, 22 of 68 Arnold Ave., charged with third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, third-degree criminal sale of marijuana and two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance, all felonies. His father, Peter, 55, mother, Jacqueline, 49, and sisters Christina, 19, and Angela, 21, all of the same address, were each charged with sixth-degree conspiracy.
• Paul Baez, 24, of 70 Arnold Ave, Carlos Vega, 30, of 48 Jay St., Steven Carrero, 23, of 42 Mathias Ave., and Walter Albino, 24 of 7 Willard St., were also charged with sixth-degree conspiracy.
• David Canales, 33, of 83 Academy St. was charged with third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance.
• Justin Crawford, 26, of 24 Dewitt St. was charged with possession of marijuana and sixth-degree conspiracy.
• Ricardo Aponte, 30, currently incarcerated in the Montgomery County jail, was charges with third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, two counts of criminal possession of a weapon, one for each of the stolen handguns, and criminal possession of stolen property.
Conroy said more arrests will likely happen in the next few days, but the investigation could continue for months.
With the flood of cases, Montgomery County District Attorney James "Jed" Conboy said he and his staff will be working long hours for a while.
“But we’re all salaried employees,” he said, “so it won’t cost the taxpayers anything extra unless anything goes to trial.”