HSI BEST Massena Plays Key Role in Major Drug Arrests

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Massena’s Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST), in collaboration with the New York Attorney General’s Office and the St. Lawrence County Drug Task Force, helped bring an end to drug trafficking organizations operating in St. Lawrence County and the surrounding counties in the Northern District of New York.

The New York Attorney General’s Office announced Friday the indictment of 106 individuals charged with conspiring in two major drug trafficking organizations that transported heroin, fentanyl and crack and powder cocaine to the area.

ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan
ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan

“The arrests announced today effectively close off a major drug trafficking pipeline allegedly responsible for distributing significant quantities of cocaine, heroin and their derivatives into communities here in northern New York and elsewhere,” said Acting ICE Director Thomas D. Homan.

“As a native of this region, I’m particularly pleased with this effort and its contributions to improving the quality of life for citizens in northern New York. I am also grateful for the cooperation of state and local law enforcement agencies that partnered in this operation.”

“Operations like this underscore ICE’s continued commitment to upholding public safety.”

The arrests and indictments came as a result of Operation Gravy Train, an extensive, multi-agency criminal investigation.

Since the operation began in January 2016, HSI BEST Massena and its state and local partners identified suppliers and distributors in various cities through covert surveillance and hundreds of hours of wiretaps.

Their efforts resulted in the seizure of approximately 2,600 bags of heroin, approximately 3,005 bags of fentanyl and more than 700 bags of cocaine.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

Investigators also seized bulk quantities of narcotics, including more than a kilo of cocaine, more than a quarter-pound of fentanyl and more than three ounces of heroin, as well as approximately $89,000 in cash.

The indictment marks the third major drug bust in New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s Suburban and Upstate Response to the Growing Epidemic (S.U.R.G.E.) Initiative, a new law enforcement effort that brings together state and local law enforcement to target New York’s heroin and opioid trafficking networks.

“Drug trafficking organizations must be aggressively attacked and dismantled at every level – from the low-level street dealer to the top brass,” said HSI Massena Resident Agent in Charge Russell Linstad.

“Through the coordinated efforts of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we have effectively stopped an organization from bringing significant quantities of drugs into our communities.”

BEST Massena is composed of full-time members from HSI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Border Patrol, Office of Field Operations, New York State Police, St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, Ontario Provincial Police, Oneida Indian Nation Police, Akwesasne Mohawk Police Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canadian Border Services Agency, St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police and Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force for the Canadian province of Québec.

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Border related crime, and the violence that is often associated with it, pose significant risks to public safety and the national security of the United States.

In response to these threats, the Department of Homeland Security, along with its federal, state and local law enforcement partners, remain committed to our focus on disrupting border related criminal activity associated with narcotics smuggling; human trafficking and smuggling; money laundering; bulk cash smuggling; weapons trafficking and smuggling; and other serious crimes.