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Law enforcement personnel lead a group into Cortland County Court for their arraignments on drug charges Wednesday afternoon.
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
35 face felony charges
after major drug bust
Statewide ‘Operation Southbound’ originated in Cortland County
By MARK FERDINAND
CORTLAND — A nine-month investigation triggered
by the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department led to
Wednesday’s bust of a statewide cocaine network, seizure
of $14 million worth of cocaine and 35 arrests.
Those who were arrested were arraigned Wednesday in
Cortland County Court and another four suspects are still
Code-named “Operation Southbound,” the network
saw cocaine being trafficked from the New York metropolitan area and Buffalo to a large swath of Central New
York. Sixteen of the 39 total suspects indicted for various felony charges of possessing or selling narcotics, primarily cocaine, are from Cortland County. There were
97 counts overall of felony drug possession or sale across
three separate indictments.
The investigation was initiated in February by Inv. Sgt.
Troy Boice of the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department,
who said he had been observing the operation reveal itself
through piecemeal cocaine sales, and wanted to find out
its primary suppliers and distributors.
Through the state Attorney General’s Organized Crime
Task Force, state police, the Cortland County Sheriff’s
Department, the Syracuse Police Department, the Cortland City Police Department and SUNY Cortland Police,
a wiretapping operation was conducted over the course
of the year, unraveling a pipeline of suppliers and buyers
who looked to make a profit by distributing to users who
sold cocaine to finance their habit, Boice said.
He said the investigation led them from low-level cocaine quantities in Cortland to midrange ounce dealers,
and then eventually to kilograms.
“This is where the investigation originated,” Boice said
of Cortland. “We’ve put a lot of time into this, and I’d like
to thank (Undersheriff) Herb Barnhart and Sheriff (Lee)
Price for allowing me to take it this far.”
Along with the 16 Cortland-area residents, 17 of the indicted are from Syracuse, three are from Watertown, one
is from Buffalo, and two are from New York City.
“This has been a long case, but a very successful one,”
said Barnhart. “This will not be tolerated in this county.”
About 361 kilograms, or $14 million worth, of cocaine
were seized as a result of the operation, Boice said, 10
coming from raids Wednesday morning, and the rest from
a joint investigation by the federal Drug Enforcement
Agency in Bayonne, N.J. About 120 officers were involved in the drug raids Wednesday morning, Boice said,
including U.S. Marshals.
According to the state Attorney General’s Office, one of
the chief suppliers was John Galan, 40, of 233 Grand Ave.,
Syracuse. He, Jimmy Pena, 34, of the Bronx and Ricardo
Martino-Serrano, 35, of 14 Schoeneck Court, Syracuse,
arranged to acquire multiple kilograms of cocaine from a
supplier in Bayonne until the 351 kilos were confiscated
there, according to court papers.
Pena is alleged to have obtained 9 kilograms of cocaine
in September from a man named Oscar Morales in Buffalo in an arrangement set up by Galan and Martino-Serrano, according to his indictment. Galan had planned for
Pena to bring more, but could not fit it into a vehicle’s hidden compartments, said Assistant Deputy General James
In another case, investigators found a Solvay man
named Carlos Orta, 40, to be in possession of a kilogram
of cocaine worth $43,000 that they observed being placed
by Galan into Orta’s Mercedes Benz. Orta was also a cocaine reseller, an indictment alleges, who took cocaine
orders throughout April and May during coded telephone
See BUST, page 2
Photos provided by the New York State Attorney General’s Office
Cocaine is seen after it was confiscated during Wednesday’s statewide “Operation Southbound” drug bust.