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Police make nearly two dozen drug arrests in Franklin County

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MALONE - Multiple Franklin County residents were arrested early Tuesday morning after year-long investigations into area narcotic sales. All told, 21 arrest warrants were served, four of which were outstanding as of Tuesday night.

The arrests were announced at a multi-agency press conference at the Malone-based state police barracks.

Police said all of thosee arrested were taken into custody without incident, except one.

An arrest team consisting of U.S. Border Patrol, Malone Village Police, and New York State Police got into a 30-minute standoff trying to take Benny Pitman, 37, of Malone into custody on West Main Street.

Malone Village Police Chief Christopher Premo said no shots were fired, but when police opened the door to his apartment while serving a search warrant they found the place barricaded.

“There were chains, there was furniture, everything you could imagine,” Chief Premo said. “It was the first time I’d ever seen anything like that.”

Malone Village Police Officer Brian Miller knew Pitman and was able to talk him into allowing police to take him into custody.

Police officials at Tuesday’s conference said the arrestees fall into one of three categories: those selling illegal narcotics for profit, addicts selling to support their habit, and those abusing the Medicaid system to obtain prescription drugs and sell them for profit.

Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Crawford said she believes the recent reform of drug laws in New York state makes the local drug market appealing to dealers from urban areas.

“That’s why we believe the heroin and the cocaine is becoming such a problem up here in Franklin County,” Ms. Crawford said, referring to sentencing guidelines under the new laws that give nine-year sentences, whereas under the Rockefeller Laws, an offender could get 25 years.

District Attorney Derek Champagne said the majority of the cocaine and heroin in the area is coming from Springfield, Mass. and Newark, N.J.

Ms. Crawford said the district attorney’s office will seek harsher sentencing for those making their living in the narcotics trade.

“The people we truly believe to be dealers, we will seek stricter sentencing, including prison time,” Ms. Crawford said.

“Presently we have a significant amount of heroin in this community which causes me significant concern for not only my officers, but for the public at large,” Chief Premo said in a news release from the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office.

Ten of those arrested Tuesday currently receive public assistance and could be indicted for fraudulent use of benefits, according to the release.

“They’re taking their prescription drugs that the taxpayers are buying for them and they’re selling them back on the street,” Chief Premo said Tuesday. “I think it’s a big issue [Medicaid abuse in Franklin County]. I think the fact that these people continue to prey off the health care system ... and we’re paying for it, there’s definitely a big issue there.”

Mr. Champagne said more may be taken into custody on drug sale charges in the coming months.

“By the end of the summer, I expect a number of additional arrests,” he said. “Well in excess of a dozen.”

The investigations are being carried out by the New York State Police Troop B Narcotics Enforcement Unit, Malone Village Police, St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police, Saranac Lake Village Police, Tupper Lake Village Police, United States Border Patrol, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Homeland Security Investigation (HSI), the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, and the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office.

The following were named following the unsealing of grand jury indictments:

■ Savanna Buckson, 30, of Malone is being sought by Malone Village Police on an outstanding warrant for two counts of fourth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (suboxone) and one count of fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (suboxone).

■ Shelly M. Nason, 51, of North Bangor was arrested by state police and charged with two counts each of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (oxycodone) and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (oxycodone). She is being held in the Franklin County Jail awaiting arraignment in Franklin County Court.

■ Leigh A. Perry, 28, of North Bangor was arrested by state police and charged with one count each of fourth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (subutex) and third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (fentanyl) and two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (fentanyl). She is being held in the Franklin County Jail awaiting arraignment in Franklin County Court.

Subutex is a drug used to prescribe opiate addiction as an alternative to suboxone. Subutex doesn’t have a chemical contained in Suboxone that is meant to curb abuse.

■ Melissa A. Dupee, 27, of Fort Covington was arrested by state police and charged with three counts of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (dilaudid), two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (dilaudid), two counts of fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (ecstasy) and two counts of fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (ecstasy). She is being held in the Franklin County Jail awaiting arraignment in Franklin County Court.

■ Mark Perry, 49, of North Bangor was arrested by state police and charged with one count each of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (fentanyl) and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (fentanyl).

He was arraigned in Franklin County Court by Judge Kathleen Rogers and released under the supervision of the probation department.

■ Albert B. Sembara, 24, of Akwesasne was arrested by state police and charged with one count each of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (cocaine), third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (cocaine), fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (ecstasy), and fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (ecstasy).

He was arraigned in Franklin County Court and remanded to the Franklin County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bail or $20,000 bond.

The following were arrested on warrants issued by local criminal courts:

■ Tommy I. Beam, 21, of Malone was arrested by Malone Village Police and charged with third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (ecstasy). He is being held in the Franklin County Jail in lieu of $2,500 bail or $5,000 bond.

■ Michael J. Lewis, 35, of Malone is being sought by Malone Village Police on an outstanding warrant for third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (cocaine) and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (cocaine).

■ Walter W. Lamay, 36, of Malone is being sought by Malone Village Police on an outstanding warrant for third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (cocaine) and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (cocaine).

■ Bernie M. Pitman, 37, of Malone was arrested by Malone Village Police and charged with two counts of fourth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (hydrocodone/marinol). Marinol is an FDA-approved drug that contains a synthetic version of the active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannibinol (THC). It is often used to alleviate side effects of chemotherapy or sometimes is given to AIDS patients to relieve pain and spark appetite.

■ Charles F. Fuller, 26, of Malone was arrested by Malone Village Police and charged with two counts of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (oxymorphone/morphine) and one count of fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (oxymorphone). He is being held in the Franklin County Jail in lieu of $2,500 bail or $5,000 bond.

■ Michael J. Gonyea, 40, of Gabriels was arrested by Malone Village Police and charged with third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (cocaine) and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (cocaine). He is being held in the Franklin County Jail in lieu of $2,500 bail or $5,000 bond.

■ Anthony E. Cook, 31, of Malone and currently a Franklin County Jail inmate, was arrested by Malone Village Police and charged with one count each of fourth and fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (suboxone). he is being held in the Franklin County Jail in lieu of $2,500 bail or $5,000 bond.

■ Troy T. Benedict, 36, of Akwesasne was arrested by state police and charged with one count of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (oxycodone). He is being held in the Franklin County Jail in lieu of $2,000 bail or $4,000 bond.

■ Tyler A. Curlyhead, 40, of Bombay was arrested by state police and charged with one count each of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (oxycodone) and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (oxycodone). He is being held in the Franklin County Jail in lieu of $2,000 bail or $4,000 bond.

■ Edward R. Mitchell, 32, of Tupper Lake was arrested by state police and charged with third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (cocaine). He is being held in the Franklin County Jail in lieu of $5,000 bail or $10,000 bond.

■ Corey M. Hall, 30, of Gouverneur was arrested by state police and charged with fourth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (suboxone) and fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (suboxone). He is being held in the Franklin County Jail in lieu of $2,500 bail or $5,000 bond.

■ Jeremy M. Brossoit, 20, of Fort Covington was arrested by state police and charged with four counts each of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (oxycodone) and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (oxycodone). He is being held in the Franklin County Jail in lieu of $15,000 bail or $30,000 bond.

■ Cecelia A. Sharrow, 19, of Akwesasne is wanted by state police on an outstanding warrant for two counts each of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (cocaine).

■ Stephen P. Whitley, 23, of Tupper Lake and currently a Franklin County Jail inmate was arrested by state police and charged with fourth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (hydrocodone).

He was re-remanded to jail in lieu of $2,500 bail or $5,000 bond.

■ Christopher J. Sluyter, 30, of Tupper Lake was arrested by state police and charged with three counts of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (opana/percocet). He is being held in the Franklin County Jail in lieu of $5,000 bail or $10,000 bond.

Also charged on June 13 by state police and Malone Village Police was Jessica N. Brown, 29, of Fort Covington, currently an inmate in the St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility. She was charged with two counts each of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (oxycodone) and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (oxycodone).

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