Operation generated $100,000 profit in just three weeks, DA says

Bail Set At $1 Million For Alleged Montauk Cocaine Ringleader

Geraldo Vargas-Munoz, in green, is the alleged ringleader of a major cocaine dealing organization. He was arraigned on 20 felony charges on Thursday, August 30. Independent / T. E. McMorrow

 

The alleged ringleader of a major cocaine and Oxycodone distribution organization in Montauk remained in jail after his bail was set at $1 million on Thursday, August 30. Geraldo Vargas-Munoz, 37, also known as Celo, ran a ring that generated over $100,000 in profits in just one three-week period, according to prosecutors.

Will Nash, an assistant with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s narcotics division, addressed New York State Justice Timothy Mazzei during the arraignments in a Riverhead courtroom of Vargas-Munoz and four of his alleged co-conspirators. Vargas-Munoz was picked up on August 14 by police near Kennedy Airport. Nash said that Vargas-Munoz had just dropped off another member of the ring, Elvin Silva-Ruiz, who was carrying $30,000 on his person and in his luggage. Silva-Ruiz was about to board a plane to Puerto Rico in order to purchase more cocaine for the ring, Nash said.

Nash said police uncovered over a half kilogram of cocaine in Vargas-Munoz’s room on West Lake Drive in Montauk. Police also recorded Vargas-Munoz making four separate sales of the narcotic, including one of more than two ounces. He is facing 20 felony charges, several of which carry a possible life in prison sentence if he is convicted.

As with the others arraigned August 30, Vargas-Munoz worked for menial wages in a Montauk restaurant kitchen. In his case, he was working as a prep cook and dishwasher at Swallow East in the dock area of Montauk. Nash said Vargas-Munoz sold cocaine “out of the back door to the kitchen.”

The investigation, District Attorney Tim Sini’s office said, involved East Hampton Town police, the East End Drug Task Force, Suffolk County police, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, and U.S. Postal Inspectors. Vargas-Munoz is identified in the indictment as having run the ring since at least August 2017, though East Hampton Town police, along with the East End Drug Task Force, have been investigating the alleged Puerto Rican-Montauk cocaine pipeline for much longer than that.

Nash said that Silva-Ruiz, 40, known as Pito, had also been recorded making a major sale of cocaine in Montauk. He is facing a possible sentence of 25 years in prison if convicted on the most serious charge. Nash asked the court to set bail at $750,000 for Silva-Ruiz. His attorney, Christopher Brocato, argued for a lower amount, saying that his client suffers from leukemia, and has to undergo dialysis once a week. Justice Mazzei, citing the seriousness of the charges, sided with the prosecution. Nash asked for, and was granted, the right for the court to examine the origins of any bail put forward for the defendants, to ensure that the money is not profits from crime.

The third man arraigned was William Crespo-Duran, 35, also known by the name Flaco. Nash said that when police raided his room, they found over four ounces of cocaine concealed beneath a floorboard. They also found $18,000 in cash. Crespo-Duran is also facing a possible 25 years in prison on the most serious count.

Antonio Ramirez-Gonzalez, 30, known as Tete, was also arraigned. Nash said Ramirez-Gonzalez was the “gatekeeper for the ill-gotten proceeds,” and that police found $30,000 in his room, neatly divided into various denominations. Bail was set for him at $750,000, as well.

The last to be arraigned was Gilberto Quintana-Crespo, aka Jimmy, 32. Unlike the other four, who all have hired lawyers, Quintana-Crespo is being represented by Melissa Kanas of the Legal Aid Society. He has been charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute narcotics. Nash said that police had recordings of Quintana-Crespo participating in the drug ring, which Nash said is based “in and around the area of Rincon” in Puerto Rico. Quintana-Crespo was a key player in the ring, Nash said, receiving narcotics and sending large amounts of cash through the Montauk Post Office. Bail was set at $500,000.

In addition to the five who were arraigned, two others have been indicted: Eric Mendez, 38, and Angel DeJesus-Rodriguez, 30. Both men are natives of Puerto Rico, though Mendez now makes his year-round home in New York City. Mendez, who posted $10,000 bail before the indictment was issued by the grand jury, and therefore was released, is facing one count of conspiracy to distribute narcotics, a felony, punishable by 25 years in prison. He is also facing a drunken driving charge in East Hampton Town.

DeJesus-Rodriguez has yet to be picked up. A court-ordered warrant has been issued for his arrest. He is facing four felonies, each of which could result in 25 years in state prison. One of those charges accuses him of making a sale of more than a half-ounce of cocaine to an undercover agent on April 18.

DeJesus-Rodriguez will be, if law enforcement officials take him into custody, the last to be arrested of those indicted. He was also the first to be arrested on a narcotics charge. On August 11, 2017, he was arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court on a felony charge of cocaine possession. Police had picked him up early that morning in the area of the Point Bar and Grill in downtown Montauk, allegedly holding nine packets of cocaine.

He told East Hampton Town Justice Lisa Rana during his arraignment that he had arrived from Puerto Rico a month earlier, and was working as a dishwasher at Swallow East, the same restaurant Vargas-Munoz, the alleged ringleader, was employed.

DeJesus-Rodriguez was arrested a second time in October 2017 on a misdemeanor cocaine possession charge. Both cases are still open in East Hampton.

Two Montauk locals, Kevin Becker and John H. DeMelio, who were arrested on conspiracy charges as part of the police crackdown on the alleged drug ring, each entered into a plea bargain deal last week, pleading guilty to a lower felony charge of conspiracy. They will be sentenced in the coming weeks. John Valentin-Doherty, another Montauk local police say was involved with the ring, is facing seven felony counts accusing him of selling to an undercover agent from his places of employment, Salivar’s in the dock area of Montauk last year, and Shagwong, in downtown Montauk, this year. He is also facing seven felony possession charges.

He, too, could get 25 years in prison if convicted of just one of the 14 felony charges. He was indicted in a separate grand jury proceeding August 30, and will be arraigned in front of Justice Mazzei September 13.

t.e@indyeastend.com