The Stamford Advocate
By Jeff Morganteen, Staff Writer
Published 01:00 a.m., Friday, December 4, 2009
STAMFORD — City police and several federal law enforcement agencies, arrested 43 alleged drug dealers on state and federal narcotics charges this week, toppling three suspected drug rings operating out of the Bronx, N.Y., and Stamford, authorities said.
Three were already in custody and six are still at large, officials said.
In a series of raids Thursday morning, Stamford police worked with local and federal law enforcement agencies to arrest 22 people on federal charges in Stamford and nearby cities. Five more were arrested in New York Wednesday. The arrests come after an investigation that began in August with a wire-tap on an alleged crack cocaine dealer, federal prosecutor Robert Spector said Thursday at U.S. District Court in Bridgeport.
Police in Stamford also arrested 13 individuals on state narcotics offenses, bringing the total number of individuals charged in the operation to 49, including the six still at large. Stamford police’s Narcotics and Organized Crime unit worked with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in addition to neighboring police departments.
Prosecutors said the investigation began with a tap on the phone of Lut Muhammad, a 23-year-old Stamford resident charged with conspiring to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine.
The U.S. attorney’s office said wiretaps helped bring down three alleged drug trafficking
organizations. Two operated out of the Bronx and supplied Stamford dealers with large amounts of crack and powder cocaine. In Thursday’s busts, authorities seized two kilograms of crack, more than one kilogram of powder cocaine, two firearms, several vehicles and about $164,000, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Stamford Police Chief Brent Larrabee said the joint investigation was one of most significant operations his police department had ever accomplished.
“Today’s arrests represent the culmination of many hours of work by a number of law enforcement agencies,” Larrabee said in a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office. “This sweep, which is the largest in the City of Stamford Police Department‘s history, we believe, will have a profound, long-term effect on drug trafficking and associated crime in the city.”
Thirty-six individuals were arrested on five indictments from federal grand juries in New Haven and Bridgeport, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, Nora Dannehy, said in a statement. They were charged with narcotics and firearms offenses and accused of participating in the large-scale distribution of cocaine and crack cocaine in Stamford and surrounding areas.
More than 20 of the federal defendants appeared in the Bridgeport courthouse after being arrested in the wide-ranging drug sweep. Several were accused of conspiring to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine.
They appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge William Garfinkel in handcuffs and in three different groups as a pool of waiting defense attorneys took their cases. Friends and relatives of the defendants watched Thursday afternoon’s proceedings from the galley.
When the prosecutors read aloud defendants’ charges and maximum prison terms, audience members gasped at the severity of the possible punishment for some offenses.
“Right now we are focused on getting as much information as we can about these arrests,” said defense attorney Mark Sherman, who represents Okeiba Sadio, a Stamford resident charged with conspiring to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine base. “After the dust settles from this morning’s raid, we will begin parsing through the allegations and distinguishing each defendant’s case from the others.”
Stamford police spokesman Lt. Sean Cooney said officers executed a number of search and arrest warrants Thursday morning and that the operation went smoothly, with no officers injured.
Details about the raids were unavailable because police referred most questions to the U.S. attorney’s office. Top investigators at the police department said they could not comment about the raids.