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Aug 30, 2018 4:43 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Felony Indictments Follow Montauk Drug Bust On Thursday

Sep 4, 2018 4:34 PM

Seven of 17 men accused of participating in a drug ring operating out of restaurants and private homes in Montauk were indicted on a multitude of charges on Thursday, August 30.

Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini announced the unsealing of a 33-count indictment, which a grand jury had handed up earlier on Thursday.

If convicted of the most serious of 22 counts—which is operating as a major drug trafficker, an A-1 felony—Geraldo Vargas-Munoz, 37, whom the DA’s office described as the leader of the drug ring, could face a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Other defendants could face a maximum sentence of eight and one-third to 25 years in prison if convicted of the top counts, according to the DA’s office.

On August 15, East Hampton Town detectives and police officers executed search warrants at five locations, resulting in the arrest of the 17 men, many of whom live in Puerto Rico but were working seasonally and for nominal pay at Montauk restaurants.

Detectives said they seized approximately $100,000 in cash, 700 grams of cocaine, marijuana and various pills, including alprazolam and hydrocodone, in addition to assorted drug paraphernalia, including a kilo press, cutting agents, cellphones, digital scales and packaging materials.

The seizure of a package by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service contained approximately 100 oxycodone and alprazolam pills addressed to one of the locations where the defendants were living, according to Mr. Sini.

Mr. Vargas-Munoz was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he was about to board an international flight while carrying $10,000 in cash on him, plus another $7,000 in his luggage, the DA’s office said at the time. As of Thursday, he faces charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree, a Class A-1 felony; criminal sale of a controlled substance in the first degree, an A-1 felony; three counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the second degree, an A-II felony; 12 counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, a Class B felony; conspiracy in the second degree, a Class B felony; and two counts of criminally using drug paraphernalia in the second degree, a misdemeanor.

Mr. Vargas-Munoz pleaded not guilty in Suffolk County Criminal Court on Thursday. Bail was set at $1 million cash or $2 million bond, which he failed to post. Like the other men arraigned on Thursday, he remains in custody at the county jail in Riverside.

At a press conference on August 16, shortly after the original arrests, Mr. Sini described Elvin Silva-Ruiz, Antonio Ramirez-Gonzalez, Gilberto Quintana-Crespo and William Crespo-Duran as the distribution ring’s other leaders. They were among the seven men who were indicted last week.

Mr. Silva-Ruiz, 40, was indicted on a charge of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the second degree, an A-II felony; three counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, a B felony; criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree, a B felony; and conspiracy in the second degree, a B felony. Bail, which he did not meet, was set at $750,000 cash or $1.5 million bond.

Mr. Crespo-Duran, 35, was indicted on one count of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the second degree, an A-II felony; criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, a B felony; conspiracy in the second degree, a B felony; and two counts of criminally using drug paraphernalia in the second degree, an A misdemeanor. Bail, which he failed to meet, was set at $750,000 cash or $1.5 million bond.

Mr. Ramirez-Gonzalez, 30, was indicted on a charge of conspiracy in the second degree, a B felony. Bail, which he failed to meet, was set at $750,000 cash or $1.5 million bond.

In addition, Angel DeJesus Rodriguez, 31, was charged with the criminal sale of a controlled substance in the second degree, an A-II felony, two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, a B felony, and conspiracy in the second degree, a B felony. He will be arraigned at a later date.

Gilberto Quintana-Crespo, 32, was charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a B felony. His bail was set at $500,000 cash or $1 million bond.

Eric Mendez, 38, was charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a B felony. He is scheduled to be arraigned on September 7.

Each of the men indicted on Thursday pleaded not guilty at arraignment. Two of the men arrested earlier this month have already pleaded guilty: Kevin Becker, 30, of Montauk pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the fourth degree, a class E felony, on August 28, and John DeMelio, 32, also of Montauk, pleaded guilty to the same charge on August 29. Mr. Becker is scheduled to be sentenced on October 31; Mr. DeMelio’s sentencing date had not yet been announced.

According to the indictment paperwork, each of the defendants aided each other in operating a major drug trafficking ring between August 16, 2017, and August 15, 2018.

Mr. Vargas-Munoz, Mr. Silva-Ruiz, Mr. Crespo-Duran, Mr. Ramirez-Gonzalez, and Mr. Quintana-Crespo are due back in court on September 26.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney William Nash, of the Narcotics Bureau, and the Special Narcotics Unit.

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