Authorities say they've arrested more than three dozen people in a drug trafficking operation that sent millions of dollars of cocaine from the New York City metro area north to upstate communities.
State Attorney General Eric Scheiderman says 39 people have been charged in connection with Wednesday's early morning raids in Cortland, Syracuse and New York City.
Police seized cocaine worth more than $1 million. Scheiderman says the drug network moved cocaine from downstate to be sold in Cortland, Syracuse and Watertown. Officials say some of the drugs also came from Buffalo.
Of the 39 arrests, 34 were made in Cortland, Syracuse and five other central New York locations. At least 15 people arrested are from the Syracuse area.
Officials say the arrests are the result of a nine-month, multi-agency investigation called "Operation Southbound" where investigators discovered three intertwined drug distribution networks impacting upstate New York.
"These elaborate drug networks polluted our communities through a pipeline of illegal drugs that allowed traffickers to bring dangerous narcotics from New York City and Buffalo to Central and Northern New York," said Schneiderman in a media release. "Operation Southbound put an end to this deadly drug distribution chain and now the perpetrators will be brought to justice."
Below is a summary of the events provided by the Attorney Generalâ??s Office:
In one network, investigators discovered that Rayshonn Hester was selling large amounts of cocaine in Cortland. Investigators uncovered a chain of suppliers and established that John Galan of Syracuse was supplying several middlemen â?? Jimmy PeÃ±a of the New York City area and Ricardo Martino-Serrano of Syracuse â?? that were linked to Hester.
Police had several interactions with this network. They stopped Rayshonn Hester and Toshiro Scott as they traveled from Syracuse to Cortland with 140 bags of cocaine destined for sale. Police also seized a kilogram of cocaine from Carlos Orta after they watched Orta's source, John Galan, place the cocaine in Ortaâ??s Mercedes Benz.
In a third instance, police near New York City seized 351 kilograms of cocaine worth over $13 million from Martino-Serrano's suppliers before a multiple kilogram transaction between supplier Galan and middleman PeÃ±a was completed. Police also seized obtain 9 kilograms of cocaine that Martino-Serrano intended to give to Galan and PeÃ±a in Buffalo.
In a second network, investigators identified Corey Grier and Termaine Kirby as large cocaine distributors operating in Cortland County. Grier's cocaine pipeline originated from Kamar Davidson of Brooklyn. In April, Grier sold seven ounces of cocaine to three people in the Fort Drum area. Davidson paid Grier with a half ounce of cocaine for his service, which Grier brought back to Cortland to sell.
The third network revolved around the activities of Andre Walker of Cortland who was also obtaining cocaine from Corey Grier, Raymond Williams, and Shane Granger, which he distributed in the Cortland area. Police seized cocaine in vehicles operated by Walker on two occasions as he traveled from the Syracuse area to Cortland.
Charges against the 39 individuals include operating as a major trafficker, criminal sale of a controlled substance, and criminal possession of a controlled substance.
The Attorney Generalâ??s office says the operating as a major trafficker statute was authored by Schneiderman when he was a legislator and went into effect as law in November 2009 as part of reforms to the Rockefeller-era drug laws. It is the only felony narcotics charge in the state that carries a possible life sentence.
Those charged in Wednesdayâ??s indictments include: Donald Abrams - Syracuse NY; Ravaughn Baker - Syracuse NY; Lyle Camige - Felts Mills NY; Terrance Carter - Syracuse NY; Joseph Crosson - Cortland NY; Kamar Davidson - Brooklyn NY; Alexander Galan - Syracuse NY; John Galan - Syracuse NY; Danielle Garrow - Cortland NY; Tamara Glover - Cortland NY; Geraldo Gonzalez - Syracuse NY; Shane Granger - Cortland NY; Corey D. Grier - New York City; Cornelius Hathaway - Cortland NY; Rayshonn Hester - Currently In State Prison; Darren Hightower - Syracuse NY; Gage A Hill - Cortland NY; Charlotte Howard - Cortland NY; Tony King - Syracuse NY; Termaine Kirby - Cortland NY; George Macon - Cortland NY; Ricardo Martino-Serrano - Syracuse NY; Oscar Morales - Buffalo NY; Deborah Oliva - Cortland NY; Santos Oliver - Pitcher NY; Carlos Orta - Solvay NY; Jimmy PeÅ?a - Bronx NY; Billy Pringle - Syracuse NY; Toshiro Scott - Syracuse NY; Lisa Spector - Cortland NY; Gerry Lee Stewart - Cortland NY; Lissette Tejeda - Solvay NY; Andre Walker - Cortland NY; Rush Walts - Evans Mills NY; Kassandra Whitney - Mexico NY; Nadine Williams - Syracuse NY; Raymond Williams - Syracuse NY; Terrance Williams - Syracuse NY; and Jessica Woodard - Cortland NY.
More than a dozen agencies participared in the partnership with Attorney General Schneidermanâ??s OCTF.
(Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.)