– Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler, Major James C. Michael of the New York State Police, City of Middletown Police Chief John Ewanciw, City of Newburgh Police Chief Arnold Amthor, and Orange County Sheriff Carl DuBois Thursday announced that 40 defendants have been indicted by an Orange County grand jury on crimes pertaining to the trafficking of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, and prescription medications throughout Orange County. The indictments are part of an enforcement action conducted by the Orange County Drug Task Force, the New York State Police, the City of Middletown Police, and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
The enforcement action primarily used undercover police officers to purchase narcotics and prescription medications. The countywide enforcement action, one of many since District Attorney Hoovler took office, was designed to help clean up neighborhoods throughout Orange County by targeting individuals trafficking narcotics.
Thirty-eight of the defendants were indicted by an Orange County grand jury and charged with crimes including Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, for selling narcotics, including cocaine, heroin, oxycodone, and fentanyl, to undercover police officers. Two of the defendants were charged with Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Fifth Degree and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Fifth Degree for having sold the prescription medication alprazolam to undercover police officers.
The crimes charged in the indictments stem from incidents which occurred from late Fall 2018 through May 2020. The illicit substances for which the defendants were charged were tested by the New York State Police Mid-Hudson Satellite Crime Laboratory. The laboratory testing of the substances, and restrictions occasioned by COVID-19, resulted in longer than normal times between the incidents charged and indictment in some of the cases. The District Attorney’s Office is seeking the public’s assistance in determining if those involved in the sales of controlled substances have engaged in other sales. Since those engaged in the sale of controlled substances often are not known to their customers by name, photographs of the defendants are being released.
Many of the purchases of the drugs, and many of the arrests, were performed by the Orange County Drug Task Force. That Task Force, which was created in 2015, is run under the supervision of a Senior Criminal Investigator from the District Attorney’s Office and a Senior Investigator from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. In addition to personnel from those agencies, the Drug Task Force is composed of police officers from other Orange County police departments. Currently the Town of Montgomery Police Department, the Town of Wallkill Police Department, and the Town of Highlands Police Department have committed to assigning police officers to work on the Task Force. The Drug Task Force assists other agencies in conducting narcotics investigations, including undercover investigations, throughout the County. Some of the agencies that assisted in the enforcement action included the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, City of Newburgh Police Department, Town of Newburgh Police Department, Town of Montgomery Police Department, Town of New Windsor Police Department, Town of Wallkill Police Department, Town of Warwick Police Department, Village of Monroe Police Department, Village of Walden Police Department, U.S. Marshalls Fugitive Task Force, and the Hudson Valley Crime Analysis Center.
Some of the cases arose from the “Blue and Gray Detail,” a joint operation that occurred in the City of Newburgh over the summer, which involved the City of Newburgh Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Safe Streets Task Force, and the New York State Police Violent Gang Narcotics Enforcement Team, and which was designed to drive down violent crime in the city.
In 2019, legislation was enacted that severely limits the courts’ ability to set bail for offenses involving narcotics sales. In previous narcotics sweeps in Orange County some bail was set by the court for almost all defendants charged with selling narcotics. Although the District Attorney’s Office has requested bail in every bail-eligible case, to date bail has only been ordered for three of the 40 defendants charged in connection with this enforcement action. Bail was set on two defendants after prosecutors argued that their status as persistent violent felony offenders rendered each of them bail eligible even under the new bail laws. Bail was also set on a defendant who was on parole. However, courts did not set bail in every eligible case.
At his arraignment, the District Attorney’s office requested that bail be set on Cory Mansfield, who was charged with selling Alprazolam to an undercover police officer. At his arraignment, prosecutors argued on the record that Mansfield was eligible to have bail set even under the new law, due to his being on probation for a violent felony. The court released Mansfield without bail.
Niki Capaci was arraigned in Orange County Court on an indictment charging her with Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree and released without bail due to the new bail laws. Within five days of being released, Capaci was again arrested and charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree for possessing 820 decks of suspected heroin. Although the District Attorney’s Office requested that bail be set on Capaci in the Town of Monroe Court, Capaci was again released without bail. The District Attorney’s Office is bringing an application in County Court to have bail set on the indicted case. Currently, Capaci remains at liberty.
The maximum sentence for the Class B felonies of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, for someone without a prior felony conviction, is nine years in state prison and post-release supervision. The maximum sentence for the Class B felonies of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, for someone with a prior felony conviction in the past ten years, is twelve years in state prison and post-release supervision. The maximum sentence for the Class D felonies of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Fifth Degree and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Fifth Degree, for someone without a prior felony conviction, is two and one-half years in state prison and post-release supervision. The maximum sentence for the Class B felonies of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Fifth Degree and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Fifth Degree, for someone with a prior felony conviction in the past ten years, is four years in state prison and post-release supervision. (*Indicates a defendant who has a prior felony conviction within the past ten years who is eligible for an enhanced sentence.)
“We must respond to the spike in fatal overdoses in Orange County, and throughout New York State,” said Hoovler. “The COVID-19 emergency temporarily hampered our ability to conduct the type of narcotics enforcement actions that are necessary to drive down the availability of these highly addictive substance, however the increase in fatal overdoses shows just how necessary these enforcement actions are. The narcotics epidemic effects every community in the State without regard to socioeconomic status, and the connection between violent crime and narcotics is undeniable. There are few residents who do not know someone whose life has been devastated by narcotics. Unfortunately, getting help for offenders who need treatment for their addictions has become more difficult. Due to the large number of police agencies in the County, and its sheer geographical size, the infrastructure for screenings and enrollment in treatment programs for offenders exists primarily at the Orange County Jail. Under current bail laws, narcotics offenders rarely make it to the jail and, consequently, getting them assessed for narcotics treatment programs has become increasingly problematic. I am confident that law enforcement, local governments, treatment providers, and concerned Orange County residents will ultimately prevail in combating the narcotics epidemic that is killing far too many in our communities.”
Sheriff Carl DuBois stated, “Actions taken by the state legislature and Governor that released some low level addiction related criminals were announced as an improvement but those within the system here in Orange County knew that they were denying those persons treatment while in jail. The Orange County Jail has robust and successful treatment options for those who come to jail addicted. These offenders, arrested as a result of these investigations, are not low level criminals despite whatever the legislature and Governor might believe; they were literally dealing death and heartbreak within our community. This operation is another step in the ongoing fight against drug dealers profiting from the addiction of their customers.”
Newburgh Chief Butch Amthor stated, “I appreciate and commend my officers, and the outside agencies who participated in this detail, in the furtherance of our joint efforts to aggressively reduce street-level drug activities and violent crime. During the detail the officers, deputies and troopers were exposed to adverse and oftentimes aggressive efforts to antagonize them. They met this negative behavior with the utmost restraint and professionalism, and I wish to personally acknowledge them.”
Major Michael of the New York State Police stated, “Fatal drug overdoses continue to be a major issue in Orange County. Through continued teamwork and cooperation with our federal, county, and local law enforcement partners, we were able to arrest 40 defendants who traffic in narcotics. These arrests, combined with education and treatment, will help to reduce the number of tragic drug related deaths in our community.”
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Neal Eriksen, Tanja Beemer, Alexis Gregory, and Matthew Bennett, and Senior Assistant District Attorney Christopher Kelly.