Law enforcement announce arrests of 15 individuals in takedown of alleged multi-million dollar drug trafficking ring

SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY (OnSachem.com / OnTownMedia.com) — Law enforcement officials announced today they have taken down an alleged major drug trafficking ring that—officials allege—used the pandemic as an opportunity to grow their business. In and near the Sachem area, the arrests include individuals in Bohemia, Holbrook, Holtsville, Lake Grove, Lake Ronkonkoma, Ronkonkoma, and Selden. 

Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini and Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart announced the arrest of 15 individuals in connection with an alleged multi-million dollar large-scale drug trafficking ring. The defendants—seven of whom are charged with a top count of Operating as a Major Trafficker—allegedly sold kilogram quantities of fentanyl, crack cocaine and powder cocaine throughout Suffolk County. 

“These arrests are a major, major blow to the drug supply in our communities,” Sini said. “The criminal element feels invisible right now, and because of that, they feel invincible, but we’re here to let them know that they’re dead wrong. We have not stopped aggressively investigating and prosecuting criminals, like the individuals involved in this drug trafficking operation.” 

“We know that those who deal these deadly drugs do not care who they hurt; their goal is to increase demand by increasing the number of those who are addicted,” Hart said. “The fact that we are in the midst of a global pandemic did not deter these criminals; rather, they saw it as an opportunity to increase their bottom line. I would like to thank the District Attorney and his team for their continued partnership.” 

An investigation by the District Attorney’s Office’s Special Narcotics Bureau and the Suffolk County Police Department’s Narcotics Section and Telephone Records and Surveillance Section (TRASE) into the defendants’ alleged illegal trafficking of narcotics began in August 2019. The investigation involved the use of court-authorized eavesdropping as well as physical and electronic surveillance. 

The investigation revealed evidence that the defendants were allegedly operating a large-scale drug distribution network, in which they sold straight fentanyl that they were marketing as heroin, as well as other narcotics. 

Due to a decrease in the supply of certain narcotics during the course of the pandemic, these defendants allegedly marked up their prices from approximately $36,000 for a kilogram of cocaine prior to the pandemic to approximately $48,000 to $49,000 for a kilogram of cocaine in recent weeks. 

The investigation culminated in the execution of 16 search warrants yesterday, May 20, which resulted in the seizure of approximately four kilograms of fentanyl, two and one-half kilograms of cocaine, half a kilogram of crack cocaine, 10 pounds of marijuana, 11 loaded firearms, two assault weapons, one shotgun, three high capacity ammunition feeding devices, and more than $244,000 in cash. Various drug paraphernalia was also seized, including a hydraulic kilogram press, packaging materials consistent with drug sales, scales, vacuum sealers, cutting agent, and money counting machines. One of the firearms recovered was determined to have been stolen from a law enforcement officer in North Carolina. 

The search warrants were also assisted by Suffolk County Police officers from the Fifth Precinct Special Operations Team (SOT), Sixth Precinct SOT, Criminal Intelligence Unit, Canine Section and Emergency Service Section. 

Seven of the defendants are charged with a top count of Operating as a Major Trafficker, a class A-1 felony that carries a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison: 

  • Keston Braithwaite, 37, of Brooklyn, is charged with two counts of Operating as a Major Trafficker, a class A-1 felony, and Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class B felony.
  • Cordea D. Buckhannan, 35, of Selden, is charged with two counts of Operating as a Major Trafficker, a class A-1 felony; two counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, a class A-1 felony; Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class B felony; seven counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, a class C felony; and two counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree, a class D felony.
  • Rashad Calhoun, 40, of Central Islip, is charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker, a class A-1 felony; Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class B felony; Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, a class A-1 felony; two counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, a class C felony; and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree, a class D felony.
  • Naquan Gray, 34, of Pennsylvania, is charged with two counts of Operating as a Major Trafficker, a class A-1 felony; two counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, a class A-1 felony; Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class B felony; and Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a class B felony.
  • Joel Hope, 41, of Brooklyn, is charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker, a class A-1 felony, and Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class B felony.
  • Justin C. Lastique, 43, of Brooklyn, is charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker, a class A-1 felony, and Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class B felony.
  • Anthony F. Loor, 34, of Holtsville, is charged with two counts of Operating as a Major Trafficker, a class A-1 felony, Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class B felony; two counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, a class A-1 felony; Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree, a class A-II felony; and seven counts of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a class B felony. 

Additional defendants who were arrested in connection with the alleged drug trafficking operation are as follows. If convicted of the top count, they each face a maximum sentence of eight and one-third to 25 years in prison: 

  • Michael Everette, 36, of Ronkonkoma, is charged with Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class B felony; four counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree, a class D felony; and two counts of Criminal Possession of a Firearm, a class E felony.
  • Christopher C. Gwynn, 35, of Lake Grove, is charged with Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class B felony; four counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a class B felony; and Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fourth Degree, a class A misdemeanor.
  • Ashley N. Labarbera, 28, of Holtsville, is charged with Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class B felony.
  • Guy B. Marcello, 35, of Lake Ronkonkoma, is charged with Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class B felony.
  • Joseph Russo, 28, of Bohemia, is charged with Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class B felony.
  • Melissa Schaus, 48, of Bay Shore, is charged with Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class B felony.
  • Henry Smoot, 35, of St. James, is charged with Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class B felony.
  • Matthew P. Versoza, 33, of Holbrook, is charged with Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class B felony. 

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Meaghan Powers of the Special Narcotics Bureau.

Sini created the Special Narcotics Bureau in June of 2019. The Bureau focuses on long-term investigations to dismantle groups and individuals involved in large-scale trafficking of narcotics and who pose a major threat to the safety of Suffolk County residents.


Submit news and opinions. Post to the events calendar. Sign up for free newsletters. Promote your business. 
Connect on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
OnSachem.com, powered by OnTownMedia.com, is the trusted hyperlocal source of news, views, info, events and more for the 85,000 residents that call Sachem home. OnSachem.com serves Farmingville, Holbrook, Holtsville, Lake Grove and Lake Ronkonkoma on Long Island, NY.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.