According to police, the arrests targeted low- and mid-level drug dealers who had unwittingly sold to undercover cops between January and August. The operation kicked off around 5 a.m., when the 18-member Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team split up into three groups — each armed with a list of targets and arrest warrants stemming from sealed indictments handed up by an Ulster County grand jury.
The alleged drug dealers were arrested at their homes, on the street and, in one case, while at work as a home health aide. Four of the 12 alleged dealers were already locked up in the Ulster County Jail on unrelated charges when they were arrested. In addition to the 12 alleged dealers charged in the indictments, another five people were arrested on lesser charges during the drug sweep.
According to URGENT’s commander, Kingston Detective Lt. Tim Matthews, the team relied on the tips generated by the Kingston Neighborhood Watch and aldermen, as well as street-level informants to identify dealers and drug houses during the investigation. The group, which was formed in March, has put a tech-savvy spin on the traditional neighborhood watch including a website (www.kingston-ny-neighborhood-watch.com) that includes forms which allow citizens to forward detailed descriptions of suspected drug activity to watch leaders or directly to URGENT. Kingston Neighborhood Watch founder Michael D’Arcy said that he was gratified that the “hundreds” of tips the watch group had generated over the past five months had led to arrests.
“Hopefully this will send a message to these people to knock it off, you’re not wanted in this community and if you come back you’re just going to get locked up again,” said D’Arcy. “[Drug dealers] need to be the people who feel uncomfortable in this community, not the residents.”
Alderman Ron Polacco (R-Ward 6), said that he routinely passed along information on drug activity to the URGENT team and praised the task force for shutting down a drug house near his home on O’Neil Street. On Tuesday, Polacco accompanied one of the URGENT squads as they rounded up suspects on Cedar Street and other locations around the city.
“I’ve told all of the residents in my ward, if you see any suspicious activity contact me and I’ll contact the police for you, because some people don’t want to get involved themselves,” said Polacco. “We all have to help fight gangs and drug activity in Kingston.”
Hot spot on Cedar Street
Most of those arrested in the sweep were charged with criminal sale and criminal possession of a controlled substance based on sales to undercover cops. Among them brothers and alleged Bloods gang members Nashawn “NaNa” Smith, Marcel “Cello” Smith and Kaseem “Ty” Smith. According to police, the brothers sold crack cocaine from a house on Downs Street before moving into a two-family residence at 129 Cedar St. last month. In the short time the men lived at the blue-and-white home, Matthews said, URGENT received dozens of complaints about drug activity there. On Tuesday, several people hanging out on the porch of 129 Cedar denied that any drugs had been sold at the house or that anyone had been arrested there. Polacco, who accompanied the raid team, however, said that two suspects were arrested at the house.
“They’re lying,” said Polacco. “They got one guy there and then the other guy showed up, he’d heard something was going on there. When he walked up they arrested him too.”
Tuesday’s arrests focused on street level drug dealing in a small area of Midtown Kingston which has been the epicenter of gang and drug activity in the city in recent years. 129 Cedar stands just half a block from the spot where Charles “C.J.” King was shot and killed allegedly by Bloods gang member Trevor Mattis in retaliation for cooperating with a police investigation into shooting on nearby Henry Street. One of those arrested in the drug sweep, Octavia “Tayo” Monroe, 29, of Pine Street is the wife of alleged Bloods member Gary Griffin, who is facing first-degree murder charges for allegedly supplying Mattis with the pistol used to kill King.
URGENT was formed in 2008 to pull together resources from local and federal law enforcement agencies under a single task force to combat drugs and gangs in Ulster County. The team operates as an arm of the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office but includes officers from Kingston, Saugerties, Lloyd, Woodstock, Plattekill, New Paltz and Shandaken, the Ulster County Probation Department and the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Arrested and charged with felony criminal sale and possession of a controlled substance were:
• Rondu “DoDo” Carter, 34, alleged Bloods member, 38A VanDuesen St.
• Robert “Slim” Adriana, 25, alleged Bloods Member, 100 Downs St. (two counts)
• Nashawn “NaNa” Smith, 23, alleged Bloods member 129 Cedar St.
• Marcel “Cello” Smith 18, alleged Bloods member 129 Cedar St.
• Kaseem “Ty” Smith, 23, alleged Bloods member 129 Cedar St.
• Octavia “Tayo” Monroe, 29, alleged Bloods member, 10 Pine St. (two counts)
• Kristin Ellison, 28, 29 Henry St.
• Betty Post, 45, Wenton Hotel, Saugerties
• Robert Hickman, 26, currently in state prison. (two counts)
• Fernando “Nino” Parris, 29m Ulster County Jail (two counts)
• Callin “.40 Cal” Lemon, 29, alleged Crips member, Ulster County Jail
• Kevin “BG” Greene, 25 alleged Bloods member, Ulster County Jail
Also arrested in the sweep were:
• Michael Ector, 28, alleged Crips member of 10 Pine St., who was charged with violation marijuana possession
• Randy Post, 51, Wenton Motel, Saugerties, charged with misdemeanor drug possession
• Laqueeda “Queeda” Smith, 25, alleged Bloods Gang member of 370 Union Center Road, Ulster Park, charged with felony marijuana possession (500 bags of marijuana packaged for sale) and obstructing governmental administration
• Johnnie “Country” Wright, 31, of 129 Cedar St. charged with misdemeanor drug possession (10 bags of heroin)
• Shannon Potter, 34, 721 Ulster Ave. charged with felony possession of a forged instrument (stolen checks)
In addition to those arrested, police are seeking another suspect, Ephriam Feliciano. Feliciano has been indicted on two counts of criminal sale and possession of a controlled substance. Anyone with information on Feliciano’s whereabouts is asked to call URGENT at (845) 334-5732.