In addition to cash and heroin displayed on a table in the DA’s office in Hauppauge after the 2011 bust, handguns and drug paraphernalia were also seized. File photo by Rachel Shapiro
June 14, 2013 | 09:32 AMMore than two years after the Suffolk County Police Narcotics Squad and the district attorney's office busted a drug trafficking ring that supplied heroin to buyers in Suffolk County, two of the men involved have been convicted of multiple felonies and could each face 25 years to life in prison.
According to a press release from Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota, a jury Tuesday found Joel Guzman of Ridgewood, Queens, and Carlos Melendez of the Bronx guilty on numerous felony charges, including operating a drug ring, first-degree conspiracy and criminal possession of a narcotic.
"We believe this is one of the first jury verdicts in New York State convicting defendants under the Operating as a Major Trafficker statute passed in 2009," Spota said in the press release, referring to a penal law against people involved in the sale of controlled substances with combined values exceeding $75,000. "This valuable law enforcement tool will keep purveyors of poison like Guzman and Melendez off our streets and away from our children for life."
Attorney information for Guzman and Melendez was not immediately available. The men are due back in court on July 25 for sentencing.
At a press conference in early 2011, Spota said a 16-month wiretap investigation led to the bust. The trafficking ring was said to have been in existence since 2006 and to have brought about 15,000 bags of heroin into Suffolk County per week.
The county confiscated 5,000 bags of heroin and 200 grams of raw heroin from a home in Corona, Queens, after the narcotics squad and the DA's office busted the drug trafficking ring. Police also seized an additional 2,700 bags of heroin, a grinder and packaging materials from locations in Maspeth, Queens, and in the Bronx.
Joel Guzman. Photo from the DA's office
At the time, Spota recalled the harsh nature of the dealer's phone conversations.
"We all know that drug dealers are heartless but this investigation took heartless to a new low," Spota said.
According to the DA, the heroin ring spanned across Suffolk, Nassau, Queens and Bronx counties, with Guzman and Melendez selling heroin in local areas such as Riverhead, Sound Beach, Islip, Holtsville, Smithtown, Kings Park, Centereach, and Selden.
Police said over the course of the investigation Guzman and Melendez brought a million bags of heroin — with a street value of about $10 million — into the county.
According to state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision records, the ring's leader, Frank Conte, who was out on bail for a second-degree manslaughter charge at the time of his arrest in the drug bust, is currently serving eight to 12 years for manslaughter, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and second-degree conspiracy.
Carlos Melendez. Photo from the DA's office
Some of the 23 people who were arrested at the time were Suffolk County residents, living in the Middle Country, Kings Park, Smithtown and Huntington communities. According to online court records, Michelle Mehling of Kings Park and Craig Kellaher of Selden, who were arrested in the bust, pled guilty to first-degree conspiracy and first-degree attempted conspiracy, but have yet to be sentenced.
Attorneys for Mehling and Kellaher could not be reached for comment.
It was not immediately clear where the other suspects' cases stand.