30 people charged in connection with cocaine, fentanyl drug ring
Prosecutors say drug ring was run by Middletown fire lieutenant
BY ERIKA NORTON
MIDDLETOWN — Twenty-nine people have been charged in connection with a drug ring allegedly run by a Middletown fire lieutenant that police say trafficked cocaine and fentanyl in Orange County.
Prosecutors on Tuesday outlined two separate conspiracies, one involving members of a self-professed “outlaw” motorcycle club trafficking cocaine, and another involving the sale of counterfeit oxycodone pills that actually contained fentanyl, an extremely powerful and frequently lethal opioid.
Police dubbed the investigation “Operation Bread, White and Blues,” with “bread” meaning money, “white” representing the cocaine, and “blues” meaning the blue-colored pills being trafficked. Prosecutors say the pills were colored, stamped, and marked to appear to be oxycodone pills.
Most of the defendants were arrested in a series of early morning raids and search warrant executions on Tuesday, the result of a six-month-long narcotics investigation, prosecutors say.
The searchSearch warrants were executed at the City of Middletown fire department.
Law enforcement officials recovered more than $200,000 in cash, 25 handguns, one assault rifle, multiple rifles, ten vehicles, two motorcycles, over 2.5 pounds of cocaine and 1,300 fentanyl pills.
Prosecutors say the two drug conspiracies were connected by two men alleged to be members of both operations — Paul Smith, a lieutenant of the City of Middletown Fire Department, and Robert Dunham.
Smith, 48, of Deerpark, is charged with crimes including operating as a major trafficker, attempted criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree, criminal sale of a controlled substance in the second degree, and conspiracy in the second degree.
Dunham, 46, of Middletown is charged with conspiracy in the second degree and four counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the second degree.
Another man arrested, John Beltempo, 49, of New Windsor, previously worked for the Village of Spring Valley Police Department, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Town of Wallkill Police Department. He is charged with charged with second degree conspiracy and is alleged to have participated in the conspiracy to sell cocaine.
“It is a sad day when law enforcement must execute narcotics related search warrants at firehouses and when paid firemen and former police officers are charged with high level narcotics felonies,” said Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler. “The narcotics trafficking that is destroying the fabric of our society and killing our residents must be fought at every level.”
The chargesThree people arrested are charged with operating as a major trafficker, a class A-I felony with a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison.
The maximum sentence for first degree criminal possession of a controlled substance is eight to 20 years in state prison, or 12 to 24 years if the offender has a prior felony conviction.
Other charges include Class A-II felonies of second degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and second degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, and Class B felony second degree conspiracy.
In addition to filing criminal charges, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office has also instituted a civil forfeiture proceeding against many of the defendants in the cocaine conspiracy in order to seize profits from allegedly illegally selling narcotics. The suit seeks over $833,000 in illegally obtained profits.
The office will commence a forfeiture proceeding against defendants in the pill conspiracy who allegedly illegally profited from the sale of narcotic pills as well.
The New York State Police were assisted in this investigation by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.