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Accused supplier to large Saratoga County drug ring pleads guilty

Accused supplier to large Saratoga County drug ring pleads guilty

The accused distributor pleaded guilty earlier
Accused supplier to large Saratoga County drug ring pleads guilty
Saratoga County Sheriff Mike Zurlo announces the March arrests
Photographer: Erica Miller/Daily Gazette Photographer

BALLSTON SPA -- A second major player in a large Saratoga County drug trafficking organization that was broken up in March has pleaded guilty, Saratoga County District Attorney's officials said Thursday.

Cleveland Francis, 45, of Mount Vernon, was in Saratoga County Court this week and pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, a felony. He is to be sentenced at a later date to 12 years in state prison, court officials said.

Francis was arrested in the March sweep, accused of being the main drug supplier to Schuylerville resident Dennis E. Jones. Jones and several other people were also arrested, with Jones being accused of being a large cocaine distributor in the county over several years.

A convicted felon, he was found in possession of multiple firearms and 1.5 kilograms of cocaine. He also had 20 pounds of marijuana, police said at the time. Jones pleaded guilty earlier to his own charges and was sentenced last month to 14 years in prison, officials said.

Investigators also believed Francis helped distribute cocaine throughout Saratoga County. He was arrested after a traffic stop in Stillwater on March 4 and was found to be in possession of cocaine. 

Representatives from the Saratoga County Sheriff's Office, state police and federal Drug Enforcement Administration representatives announced the arrests in March.

As part of the investigation, 20 guns, as well as large amounts of cocaine and marijuana and $264,000 in cash were seized, officials said at the time of the arrests. They also seized 2.5 kilograms of cocaine valued at $250,000, officials said.

Previous: Saratoga Co. probe nets arrests, drugs, $264k, March 19, 2018

The investigation began in September 2017, after the Saratoga County Sheriff's Office learned of the ring. Investigators then infiltrated the organization with an undercover investigator and made several cocaine purchases.

The trail led sheriff's investigators beyond the borders of Saratoga County, prompting them to bring the state police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team and DEA task force into the probe.

Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo called the operation the largest he'd seen in the county in his 40 years in law enforcement.

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