Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler announced on Thursday, June 23, 2016, defendants charged in the “Operation Chopper” enforcement action pleaded guilty to the Class A felony of Operating as a Major Trafficker, and the Class B Felony of Enterprise Corruption, as well as to other charges.
Brandon Masker pleaded guilty before Orange County Court Judge Robert H. Freehill to Operating as a Major Trafficker. During his plea Masker admitted that was the director of a controlled substance organization that distributed cocaine throughout Orange County and surrounding areas, and that he had at least four people working under him, who distributed the cocaine for him throughout Orange County. Under the plea arrangement announced in Court Masker faces up to fifteen years in State Prison. Masker’s organization was centered in the Town of Warwick.
In addition to uncovering crimes related to narcotics distribution, the “Operation Chopper” investigation also revealed crimes committed by “outlaw motorcycle clubs”. Ryan Culver pleaded guilty to Enterprise Corruption for criminal acts he committed as the President of the now defunct Young Souls Motorcycle Club. Culver admitted selling cocaine on behalf of the Young Souls, a self-described “outlaw biker club” in September 2014 and May 2015, and possessing a pistol in late 2013. That pistol was later used in a shooting in an Otisville bar by another Young Souls club member.
Charles Sawtelle also pleaded guilty to Enterprise Corruption
for criminal acts he committed as the President of the Cycle Lords motorcycle club. Sawtelle admitted not only selling cocaine and methadone pills, but also possessing an illegal high capacity magazine on behalf of the Cycle Lords.
Amanda Rohloff pleaded guilty on June 23, 2016, to Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree. Rohloff admitted that she possessed cocaine with intent to sell it, and that she was selling it on behalf of Ryan Culver.
Richard Tomczak, his brother, Joseph Tomczak, Peter Noger, and John Scheinert all pleaded guilty on June 23, 2016, to Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree and each admitted agreeing to helping Masker sell cocaine.
On June 23, 2016, Carl Digirolamo pleaded guilty to Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree. Digirolamo admitted to possessing cocaine he received from Anthony Spagnola with the intent to sell it.
Other defendants who had previously pleaded guilty to felonies related to the case are listed in chart below.
On April 28, 2016, members of the New York State Police Special Investigations Unit, in conjunction with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the Sussex County, New Jersey, Prosecutor’s Office, executed multiple search warrants and made over twenty arrests throughout Orange County, surrounding counties in New York, and Sussex County, as a result of a seven-month-long narcotics investigation. Law enforcement officials recovered more than two kilograms of cocaine, most of which they seized in Sussex County. The investigation included the use of electronic surveillance, including wiretaps.
The results of the investigation were presented to a specially empanelled Orange County Grand Jury. Those charged in this enforcement action include:
|Name||Age||Residence||Charged With||Pleaded Guilty||Date of Plea|
|36||Vernon, NJ||Operating as a Major Trafficker||————-||————|
|BRANDON G. MASKER||33||Warwick||Operating as a Major Trafficker||Operating as a Major Trafficker||June 23, 2016|
|RYAN M. CULVER||29||Otisville||Enterprise Corruption||Enterprise Corruption||June 23, 2016|
|ANTHONY J. SPAGNOLA||56||Cuddebackville||Operating as a Major Trafficker||————–||———–|
|AMANDA ROHLOFF||24||Bloomingburg||Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 3rd Degree and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree||Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 3rd Degree and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree||June 23, 2016|
|CARL DIGIROLAMO||26||Bloomingburg||Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 3rd Degree||Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 3rd Degree||June 23, 2016|
|GERALD F. O’BRIEN III||33||Pine Island||Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 3rd Degree||—————||————-|
|CHARLES M. SAWTELLE||53||Westbrookville||Enterprise Corruption||Enterprise Corruption||June 23, 2016|
|KEVIN P. KELLY||31||Warwick||Conspiracy 4th Degree||Conspiracy 4th Degree||May 25, 2016|
|RICHARD J. TOMCZAK, JR.
|34||Goshen||Conspiracy 4th Degree||Conspiracy 4th Degree||June 23, 2016|
|PETER M. NOGER||55||Goshen||Conspiracy 4th Degree||Conspiracy 4th Degree||June 23, 2016|
|ROBERT A. HOWELL||55||Warwick||Conspiracy 4th Degree||Conspiracy 4th Degree||June 17, 2016|
|CODY M. CAPLANDIES||21||Middletown||Conspiracy 4th Degree||Conspiracy 4th Degree||May 18, 2016|
|THOMAS P. CAPLANDIES, JR.||46||Bloomingburg||Conspiracy 4th Degree||Conspiracy 4th Degree||May 18, 2016|
|JENNA D. MANAPAT||24||Johnson||Conspiracy 4th Degree||Conspiracy 4th Degree||May 20, 2016|
|JACOB GAVIN||25||Wurtsboro||Conspiracy 4th Degree||Conspiracy 4th Degree||June 10, 2016|
|DAVID A. NIELSEN||47||Middletown||Conspiracy 4th Degree||Conspiracy 4th Degree||May 13, 2016|
|JOSEPH TOMCZAK||28||Warwick||Conspiracy 4th Degree||Conspiracy 4th Degree||June 23, 2016|
|JOHN SHIENERT||24||Warwick||Conspiracy 4th Degree||Conspiracy 4th Degree||June 23, 2016|
Additional defendants are expected to be charged in connection with this operation.
Miguel Galvin is currently charged in New Jersey with Maintaining or Operating a Controlled Dangerous Substance Production Facility in the First Degree; Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine in the First Degree; Certain Persons Not to Possess Weapons in the Second Degree; Possession of Weapon and Controlled Dangerous Substance and Other Offenses in the Second Degree; and Prohibited Weapons Device in the Fourth Degree.
Joseph Carloni, 43, of Vernon, New Jersey, has been charged with Conspiracy in the Second Degree. He is currently incarcerated in New Jersey on unrelated charges. A hold has been placed on Carloni to ensure that he returns to New York to face these charges. He is scheduled to appear in Orange County Court on August 24, 2016.
The maximum sentence for the Class A-1 felony of Operating as a Major Trafficker is 25 years to Life in State Prison.
The maximum sentence for the Class B felonies of Enterprise Corruption and Conspiracy in the Second Degree is 8 1/3 to 25 years in State Prison.
The maximum sentences for the Class B felony of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree is nine years in State Prison.
The maximum sentence for the Class D felony of Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree is 2 1/3 to 7 years in State Prison.
District Attorney Hoovler thanked the New York State Police Special Investigations Unit and the Sussex County, New Jersey, Prosecutor’s Office for their efforts in this investigation. District Attorney Hoovler highly commended the New York State Police for their investigation given the complexity of the case.
Assistant District Attorney Kerry Kolek assisted in the investigation of the case and is prosecuting all of the defendants charged in the operation.
Brandon Masker’s plea marks the first time that there has been a plea to Operating as a Major Trafficker in Orange County, and the first time the Orange County District Attorney’s office has charged someone with that crime. The crime which passed by the New York State in 2009 is referred to as the “Drug Kingpin Statute” and is reserved for high level drug dealers. One of the elements of the crime is that the offender possess over $75,000 worth of narcotics with intent to sell them in a one year time period.
Similarly, Ryan Culver’s and Charles Sawtelle’s guilty pleas mark the first time that pleas to Enterprise Corruption have been obtained by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. The crime of Enterprise Corruption was created to address the particular and cumulative harm posed by persons who band together in complex criminal organizations. The New York State was inspired by the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law.
In addition to filing criminal charges, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office has also instituted a civil forfeiture proceeding against many of these defendants in order to seize from them profits that they have made illegally selling narcotics. The suit seeks over $500,000 in illegally obtained profits.
It is anticipated that additional charges against additional defendants will be filed.
“The narcotics trafficking that is destroying the fabric of our society and killing our residents must be fought at every level,” said District Attorney Hoovler. “It is only through enforcement actions such as “Operation Chopper” that law enforcement is able to pursue those higher level drug dealers and craftier offenders who attempt to insulate themselves from criminal liability by dealing drugs through intermediaries. Although we have emphasized education and treatment as important avenues to keep people off drugs in the first place, so that we may dry up the demand for illegal narcotics, we have also made it a priority to attack the supply of narcotics by vigorous enforcement actions against narcotics dealers. Organized criminal activity, especially which involves illegal weapons, presents the public and law enforcement with additional challenges and concerns, and it simply cannot be tolerated. My office will continue to use every tool at our disposal, including the use of wiretaps, civil forfeiture actions, and utilizing criminal statutes which have never been charged before in Orange County, to combat the illicit narcotics trade and all types of organized criminal activity.”
A criminal charge is merely an allegation that a defendant has committed a violation of the criminal law, and it is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the State’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.[Not a valid template]