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Nine arrested in Lewis County drug sweep involving mostly prescriptions

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LOWVILLE — Area law enforcement officials are hoping to send a message with Thursday’s arrest of nine Lewis County residents for allegedly selling drugs — most of them prescription narcotics — in the village over the past two years.

“We’re coming for you,” Lewis County District Attorney Leanne K. Moser said during an afternoon news conference at the Lowville municipal building. “We have to remove this problem from society.”

The investigation, conducted by village police, the state police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department and the Lewis County district attorney’s office, was dubbed “Operation Spring Sweep.”

Thirty-eight officers — including ones from participating agencies as well as the U.S. Marshals Service and Fort Drum — helped round up the suspects in a two-hour sweep Thursday morning, starting a little after 7 a.m., officials said. Lewis County Sheriff’s Department police dog Wyman also participated in the effort.

All nine suspects are considered lower-level dealers, with none working in partnership with the others or as any type of ring, Ms. Moser said.

Many of those arrested obtained the narcotics, primarily pain medication, through legitimate prescriptions, then sold some pills for extra money, village Police Chief Eric F. Fredenburg said.

However, police still are checking on some to determine whether they stole the drugs or gained them through other illicit means, he said.

“We’re not certain on all of them yet,” the chief said.

The following were charged and were being held Thursday night in Lewis County jail:

n Jody L. Wetmore, 38, Glenfield, two counts of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, morphine; $25,000 bail.

n Randy R. Grimmer Jr., 30, Lowville, fourth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, hydrocodone; $15,000 bail.

n Allan K. Harris, 38, Lowville, third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, oxycodone; $10,000 bail.

n Timothy F. Gaba Jr., 26, Lowville, two counts of fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, Adderall; $5,000 bail.

n Dale E. Williams, 59, Lowville, third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, hydrocodone; $5,000 bail.

n Thomas C. Hanno Jr., 38, Lowville, fourth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, hydrocodone; $5,000 bail.

n Lee R. Souva, 21, Copenhagen, two counts of third-degree criminal sale of marijuana and three counts of fourth-degree criminal sale of marijuana; $5,000 bail.

n Angel L. Estrada, 28, Lowville, fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, Xanax; $5,000 bail.

n Zavon J. Flowers, 19, Lowville, fourth-degree criminal sale of marijuana; $1,000 bail.

Two other former Lowville residents — Luis J. Pabon Jr., 39, and Chantel M. Bergen, 21 — were arrested previously based on evidence gathered in the two-year investigation, officials said.

The two, formerly of River Street in the village, were apprehended Feb. 5 in New Haven, Conn., on a bench warrant issued by County Judge Daniel R. King. They then were extradited in late February, and both are facing three counts of third-degree criminal sale of marijuana, two counts of fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana and one count of fourth-degree criminal possession of marijuana. Their next County Court appearance is slated for May 10.

Officials said that they still were looking for one suspect whom they were unable to find Thursday morning and that more drug-related arrests may be forthcoming.

“Law enforcement’s attention to those crimes does not end today,” Ms. Moser said.

The “ongoing investigation” relies on citizen and undercover informants, agency cooperation and “just good old-fashioned police work,” she said.

Several police officials spoke at the news conference and indicated that drug arrests tend to be more difficult in small communities, where most people know one another.

They indicated that the drug problem, while not necessarily rising here, is definitely present.

While Lewis County is fortunate not to have a violent drug culture, “any time there is drugs in the community, it’s a problem,” Sheriff Michael P. Carpinelli said.

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