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Hampton Bays Man Arrested in Widespread Heroin Ring Bust

Publication: The Southampton Press
By Colleen Reynolds   Jan 25, 2011 6:14 PM

A Hampton Bays man was among nearly two dozen people arrested this week in what Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office termed a “table-top” heroin distribution ring spanning Suffolk, Nassau, Queens and Bronx counties.

The network—called a “table-top” because a stash house used by dealers contains no furniture other than a table and chairs where drugs are prepared—was based in Queens and supplied roughly 15,000 bags of the highly addictive narcotic to users in Suffolk County per week, Mr. Spota’s office said. Over the course of a 16-month investigation by the D.A.’s office and the narcotics section of the Suffolk County Police Department, the ring delivered about one million bags of heroin into the county, they said.

Ryan Walsh, 27, of Hampton Bays was charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a felony, for his alleged role in the criminal enterprise, prosecutors said. He is accused of working as a “runner” for Ricardo Rifino Jr., 29, of Sayville, who the authorities said has been indicted by a grand jury on a felony charge of working as a major drug trafficker. Authorities declined to say exactly when and where Mr. Walsh was arrested, but said both investigating agencies made the arrests in the bust. Mr. Walsh is being held at the Suffolk County Jail in Yaphank in lieu of a $100,000 cash bail or $300,000 bond, prosecutors said.

Sixteen of the 23 defendants, including Mr. Walsh, live on Long Island, according to the authorities, but he was the only East End resident caught up in the arrests, which were announced Tuesday.

According to Mr. Spota’s office, Mr. Walsh would travel to New York City to pick up heroin and then return to Long Island and deliver the narcotic to Mr. Rifino.

The D.A.’s office said Mr. Rifino would send “runners” into New York City to buy approximately 2,000 bags of heroin every other week to sell to multiple heroin users in Suffolk County. Mr. Rifino was also indicted for second-degree conspiracy to distribute. The authorities said Mr. Rifino was a prior felony offender, currently on bail, who is awaiting formal sentencing to three years in state prison for a prior conviction for heroin possession. The new arrest now subjects him to a lengthier sentence for the previous case.

Suffolk County narcotics detectives seized about 2,500 bags of heroin and $80,000 in cash, recovered from a shoe box while executing a search warrant at his Sayville home last fall, as part of this investigation.

The heroin ring was run by Carlos Melendez of The Bronx and Joel Guzman of Ridgewood, Queens, Mr. Spota’s office said.

The two men operated a “stash house” in Corona, Queens, where heroin was cut, packaged and prepared for street sales in Suffolk County, according to the D.A.’s office. Heroin packaged for sale in glassine bags at the Queens stash house was stamped “Sweet Death,” “Starbucks” and “Kneebender,” Mr. Spota’s office said. Five thousand bags of heroin, 200 grams of raw heroin, two loaded handguns and packaging materials were seized from the house, the authorities said.

The two suspected drug dealers purchased raw, uncut heroin from Frank Conte of The Bronx, who authorities said is a major drug supplier and who had been free on $1 million bond after being charged with second-degree murder for a 2007 killing. Mr. Melendez and Mr. Guzman were each charged with being major drug traffickers, among many other charges. Mr. Conte was charged with second-degree conspiracy.

“We all know that drug dealers are heartless,” Mr. Spota was quoted as saying in a press release, “but this investigation took that heartlessness to a new low … These dealers knew people were dying of heroin drug overdoses, and they discussed those overdoses while arranging new deals.”

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