Cash and drugs flowed through the post office and restaurant kitchens across Montauk

Alleged Montauk Drug Kingpins Indicted

Some of the defendants who were arraigned on drug trafficking charges in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Thursday, August 16. Independent/Justin Meinken

Assistant District Attorney Rudy Migliore announced in East Hampton Town Justice Court late Monday afternoon, August 20, the indictment of the major players in the alleged Montauk drug ring who were arrested last week. The district attorney’s office had until the end of day Monday to obtain the indictments, or release them as per law regarding defendants being held on felony charges.

The five who were indicted are Gilbertos Quintana Crespo, William Crespo Duran, Elvin Silva-Ruiz, Antonio Ramirez Gonzalez, and Geraldo Jose Vargas-Munoz. They will now all be held without the possibility of bail until the indictments are unsealed in district court in the coming days.

Assistant District Attorney Brad McGill spoke during the arraignments on August 16 in East Hampton Town Justice Court of 13 of the men who were arrested last week, describing the mechanics of the alleged operation.

Ten men thus far have been charged with felonies, including conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and the sale of narcotics, with eight of those charged with felonies being arraigned last Thursday. A ninth was arraigned the following day on felony charges. A tenth was arraigned at his bedside in Stony Brook Southampton Hospital last week.

For East Hampton Town police, the arrests were years in the making. Police said they have suspected, but have been unable to prove, that a drug ring run by a group from Puerto Rico was fueling cocaine and Oxycodone traffic in Montauk. The individuals would take jobs in restaurant kitchens across Montauk, from the dock area, to downtown. These jobs were for menial salaries, the police believed. Frequently, the leaders would work as dishwashers and prep cooks, according to police. They often would use post office boxes in Montauk to distribute drugs and cash.

The arrests followed a joint effort by town police, the East End Drug Task Force, and two federal agencies, the U.S Postal Inspection Service, and the Drug Enforcement Agency. “Traffickers who send narcotics through the mail and distributed within restaurants and bars endanger every person and community along the way. It’s time that these defendants are held accountable for their brazen actions,” said DEA New York Division Special Agent in Charge James Hunt at a press conference led by District Attorney Tim Sini Thursday afternoon.

“A multi-agency investigation beginning in March 2018 revealed evidence of an alleged conspiracy by the defendants to sell narcotics, including cocaine and oxycodone, to patrons in bars and restaurants in the Montauk area,” the district attorney said in a press release. “The commercial establishments include Swallow East, 668 the Gig Shack, Shagwong Tavern, The Liar’s Saloon, and O’Murphy’s Pub & Restaurant.” Some of those arrested worked at The Surf Lodge, as well, including one of those identified as a leader of the group.

One of several being arraigned, John Demilio, was charged with felony conspiracy. “This investigation utilized undercover police officers and detectives, electronic surveillance, and court authorized eavesdropping. . . of the co-conspirators in this criminal enterprise,” McGill said. “During the course of this investigation, the defendant conspired with other members of this organization, including the following: Geraldo Vargas Munoz, Elvin Silva-Ruiz, Gilbertos Quintana Crespo, and Antonio Ramirez-Gonzalez through the interception of communications of these co-conspirators’ cell phones.” He said that DeMilio, along with the others charged with conspiracy, were using the group as the “source of supplies for his own sales of narcotics.”

Police seized “approximately $100,000 cash, about 650 grams of cocaine, marijuana, various pills, including alprazolam and hydrocodone, and assorted drug paraphernalia, including a kilo press, cutting agents, cell phones, and packaging materials,” according to the District Attorney’s office.

The most serious charges were against Geraldo Jose Vargas-Munoz, also known as Celo, 37, of Rincon, Puerto Rico, and Montauk, who was charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, an A-1 felony, and William Crespo-Duran, also known as Flaco, 35, of Montauk and Rincon, who was charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree, an A-II felony.

Police said they found over four ounces of cocaine in a plastic bag in Crespo-Duran’s room at 14 Gates Avenue. Vargas-Munoz, who worked in the kitchen at Swallow East in the dock area, had over eight ounces of cocaine in his room, police said. Because of the serious nature of the crimes of which they were accused, Vargas-Munoz and Crespo-Duran were not eligible to have bail set at the local level, and were remanded to county jail.

Six men were charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics. Kevin Becker, 30, and John H. DeMelio, 32, both year-round Montauk residents, were released after their families posted bail.

Several other men charged with conspiracy gave Montauk as their summer address, with Puerto Rico being their year-round home. They include Antonio Ramirez-Gonzalez, also known as Tete, 30, Bryan Ruiz Sanchez, 22, and Gilbertos Quintana Crespo, also known as Jimmy, 32. Eric Mendez, 38, who has a year-round New York City address, has been working in Montauk as a chef for several years.

As Antonio Ramirez-Gonzalez was arraigned, McGill called him the “gatekeeper for the ill-gotten proceeds of the largest narcotics distribution system in and around the area of Montauk.” He said that Ramirez-Gonzalez had in his room on West Lake Drive “approximately $26,000 cash that was clearly marked and bundled in different denominations.” With Ramirez-Gonzalez, McGill asked that any bail being presented be the subject of a court hearing to ensure that the money being proffered was not the product of the criminal enterprise. Bail was set for him at $100,000.

In addition, several men were arrested on lesser charges, mostly at the misdemeanor possession level, after apparently being scooped up during the early morning raids. Those arraigned on the misdemeanor charges last Thursday afternoon included Nawar Abdul Hasan Qanbar, 32, Louis Madariaga-Medina, 31, Israel Padilla-Rosas, 33, Alex Joel Tirado-Rivera, 32, and Bracklie Vargas-Gonzalez, 24. All those charged with misdemeanors were freed after posting bail in amounts ranging from $250 to $500.

Another man charged at the most serious A-felony level was Elvin Silva-Ruiz, also known as Pito. He was charged with selling narcotics, with police saying he sold over a half ounce in cocaine in one sale to an undercover agent. He was arraigned in Stony Brook Southampton Hospital by Southampton Justice Barbara Wilson Thursday. The police did not disclose the reason for Silva-Ruiz’s hospitalization, but he remained there as of August 20.

Another Montauk year-round resident was arraigned in East Hampton Friday on related charges. Police said John Valentin Doherty made seven sales of cocaine to undercover agents between July of last year, when he was working at Salivar’s in the dock area of Montauk, and July of this year. Police said he was working in the kitchen at Shagwong on Main Street in downtown Montauk when he made his most recent sales to undercover agents. His bail of $10,000 was posted by a family member.

East Hampton Town police Captain Chris Anderson said that the investigation was still open and ongoing, and that other arrests could follow.

t.e@indyeastend.com