A Colonie-based heroin trafficking ring that used local mall food courts and then taxi cabs to distribute their drugs has been taken down, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple announced Friday.
Authorities believe the ring was responsible for bringing as much as $160,000 worth of heroin into the Capital Region each week from New York City.
A main method of distribution, Apple said, was through cab drivers bought by the organization with money and heroin.
Addicts would be sent to a location and “would line up at the taxi like kids would line up for ice cream,” Apple said.
Many of the addicts fueled by the group, Apple said, were in their late teens and early 20s.
Albany County Sheriff’s investigators, with Colonie police and federal agencies, swept up four people in raids Thursday evening. More arrests are to come.
At a press conference Friday in Albany, Apple and investigators showed off a table full of heroin that was seized. The heroin was in various stages of preparation. Packaging and cutting agents were also displayed.
“I stand here firmly believing that we heavily dented the heroin drug traffic in the Capital Region,” Apple said.
He said he knows others will step up and try to fill the void. And investigators will be looking for them, too.
But he said investigators went out looking to do undercover heroin buys after Thursday’s raids and couldn’t find any to buy.
“With the amount of heroin being pushed here on a daily basis, we are firm believers that we hit it and we hit it hard,” Apple said.
The investigation began a year ago when the Sheriff’s Department got word that the organization had set up shop in a Colonie motel.
Before undercover buys could be made, though, the organization got robbed and left the area for a time.
When they came back early this year, they set up shop in local mall food courts, selling from there, as well as Dave and Busters, police said.
Soon, though, business got too big and dangerous for that method, Apple said. Instead, they turned to taxi cab drivers, some of them heroin addicts.
The organization allegedly had as many as three or four taxis on duty at any one time. They paid the drivers $65 per day and sometimes in drugs. It was a method that few would take a second look at, Apple said.
“The addicts would contact the drug phones and whoever was on duty in the organization would tell them to meet them at an area business,” Apple said.
The drugs would then be sold right from the cab, Apple said. Authorities have identified at least 20 members of the organization.
Authorities from Colonie and Albany County raided two addresses Thursday night with the help of agents from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
They hit a house at 1779 Central Ave. in Colonie and 2185 River Road in Coeymans. They seized 15.6 ounces of heroin, $32,000 in cash, along with some cocaine and marijuana. The drugs came out of the Colonie house, police said.
Arrested, each on a charge of first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, were: Irving Prado, 40, of 1779 Central Ave., Colonie; Donte Joseph, 23, and Cheick Sakho, 30, both of 2185 River Road, Coeymans; and Nicholas Vervos, 60, of 20 Rensselaer St., Albany.