Plea Deals in Montauk Drug Bust

Key members of drug ring to be sentenced soon
William Crespo-Duran, seen here being led into East Hampton Town Justice Court back in August, will face a Suffolk County Criminal Court judge in April for sentencing on charges related to a Montauk drug bust last summer. Carissa Katz

Three of the five men accused of running the largest drug ring ever on the South Fork, allegedly raking in as much as $100,000 in three weeks last summer in Montauk, took plea deals this month in Suffolk County Criminal Court and are facing a range of prison sentences. 

William Crespo-Duran, described by the Suffolk district attorney’s office as a pivotal member of the organization, was one of 17 defendants named in a 33-count indictment in August. Most of the defendants, arrested as part of the narcotics distribution ring on Aug. 15 after a five-month investigation by the district attorney’s East End Drug Task Force, are from Puerto Rico. They worked at seasonal jobs in Montauk, mainly in restaurants, and would return to Puerto Rico in the winter. 

Mr. Crespo-Duran, 35, pleaded guilty on Feb. 20 to criminal possession of a controlled substance in the second degree for allegedly possessing over four ounces of a narcotic, a top A felony. Two other felonies, criminal possession of a narcotic with intent to sell and first-degree conspiracy along with a misdemeanor for criminal use of drug paraphernalia, were covered by the plea. 

He is on State Justice Timothy Mazzei’s docket for sentencing on April 10. Known as Flaco, he was facing eight and one third to 25 years. He has been held on $1.5 million bond or $750,000 cash bail since August. 

Police used court-authorized eavesdropping and electronic surveillance as well as undercover drug buys in the investigation. Executing a search warrant at Mr. Crespo-Duran’s house on Gates Avenue in Montauk on Aug. 15, they found 200 grams of cocaine in a compartment in the floor under his bed, according to William Nash, an assistant district attorney with the county narcotics bureau. Police also reportedly found a scale and $18,000 in cash.

Antonio Ramirez-Gonzalez, 30, who had been referred to by the district attorney’s office as the “gatekeeper of the ill-gotten proceeds of the largest narcotics distribution ring in and around Montauk,” also recently changed his guilty plea. Known as Tete, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the first degree, a B felony, on Feb. 6. He will be sentenced on March 13. In his room on West Lake Drive in Montauk, investigators allegedly found $30,000 in cash, bundled in different denominations and clearly marked, as well as narcotics. He has also been held on bail. 

Gilberto Quintana-Crespo, a 32-year-old known as Jimmy, entered a guilty plea on Feb. 6 to fourth-degree conspiracy, an E felony. He had been referred to as a “key member” of the narcotics distribution ring who had a role in securing postal packages containing the drugs. 

He has been held on $500,000 cash or $1 million bond and will be sentenced on March 13. His Legal Aid Society attorney said at his arraignment that while he was facing as much as eight and a third to 25 years, he could get as little as one to three years.

On Monday, John Valentin-Doherty, 30, who had been facing 14 charges after the indictment, pleaded guilty to criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree, a felony. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 24.

A fifth man, John DeMelio, 34, who was not indicted but appeared in the Superior Court information, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree conspiracy on Aug. 29 and was released on his own recognizance. Three other drug charges also were covered by the plea deal. His sentencing has been postponed twice, once in November and then in January, and he is due back in court on March 12. 

Meanwhile, the cases against Geraldo Vargas-Munoz, 37, whom the D.A.’s office described as the “largest purveyor” of cocaine and oxycodone in Montauk, and Elvin Silva-Ruiz, who allegedly had sold a half-ounce of cocaine to an undercover officer and arranged for the shipment of cocaine and oxycodone, are pending. 

Mr. Vargas-Munoz, known as Chelo, allegedly sold drugs out the back door of the kitchen at the restaurant Swallow East, where he was a chef, and also supplied others with narcotics to sell. He has pleaded not guilty on top of felony charges in a 33-count indictment, including operating as a major trafficker and conspiracy in the second degree. He faces 25 years in prison. 

Mr. Silva-Ruiz, known as Pito, was arrested in August while trying to board a plane at Kennedy Airport. The district attorney said he had $20,000 in cash in his pocket, which was meant to resupply the drug ring. 

Both men have been in the custody of the Suffolk County sheriff’s office since their arrests. Mr. Silva-Ruiz, 40, was undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia and was on dialysis when he was arraigned in late August.  

The two men agreed to what was described in court records as pre-plea drug treatment in December. Mr. Vargas-Ruiz is due back before Justice Mazzei on March 11; Mr. Silva-Ruiz will be in the same courtroom two days later. 

Another man, Eric Mendez, who had been named in the 33-count indictment, was also listed in online court records as having opted for pre-plea drug treatment on Feb. 14. The 38-year-old is due back in court on April 4. 

Three other men picked up as part of the bust also pleaded guilty, though major charges were not brought against them. Kevin L. Becker, 30, is in the midst of a one-and-a-half to three-year stay in state prison. His attorney, Edward Burke Jr., had worked out a deal on a conspiracy charge when he was arrested in October. He was free on $10,000 bail and due for sentencing on Halloween, when he was charged with misdemeanor driving while intoxicated. (That charge was ultimately reduced in East Hampton Town Justice Court to driving while ability impaired, a violation.)  

The D.A.’s office came down harder on him because of an upstate prison sentence. His guilty plea of fourth-degree conspiracy, a felony, stood, and he entered the Willard Drug Treatment Center, a prison for drug-addicted convicts, on Jan. 3, according to online records. He is eligible for a parole hearing in December and could be released as early as April 2020, the record shows, though his release could be earlier upon successful completion of the program at Willard. 

Bryan Sanchez-Ruiz, 23, has finished serving his sentence on a conspiracy charge. Incarcerated since August, he was sentenced  to nine months in Suffolk County jail and released on Feb. 11, according to jail records. 

Louis Madariaga-Medina, who had been charged with two misdemeanor possession charges, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct, a violation, in East Hampton Town Justice Court in October. He was fined $375.

Left to right, William Crespo-Duran, Gilberto Quintana-Crespo, Antonio Ramirez-Gonzalez