D.A. says ring distributed cocaine in bars and restaurants

Major Montauk Drug Bust Nets 14

A major drug bust operation that entailed five simultaneous raids in Montauk early Wednesday targeted what Brad McGill, assistant district attorney and deputy bureau chief in District Attorney Tim Sini’s office, called “the largest narcotics ring in Montauk.” McGill spoke during the arraignments of 13 men who were arrested, mostly during the raids at a couple of locations in Montauk early Wednesday morning.

A 14th defendant was arraigned at Southampton Hospital, where he was transported for undisclosed medical reasons.

The arraignments took place in East Hampton Town Justice Court Thursday afternoon. Nine 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 Thursday.

The arrests followed a joint effort by the East Hampton 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, Six-Six-Eight the Gig Shack, Shagwong Tavern, The Liar’s Saloon, and O’Murphy’s Pub & Restaurant.” At least a couple of those arrested worked at the Surf Lodge, as well.

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. Because of the serious nature of the crimes they are accused of, they are not eligible to have bail set at the local level, and were remanded to county jail.

According to McGill, recordings from court-ordered wiretaps of the cell phones of several of those arrested helped the police to build their case. 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.

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 misdemeanors charges 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 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, and was arraigned by Southampton Justice Barbara Wilson Tuesday. The police did not disclose the reason for Silva-Ruiz’s hospitalization.

Another Montauk year-round resident was arraigned in East Hampton Friday on related charges. Police said John V. 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.

t.e@indyeastend.com