A cautionary tale for anyone looking forward to "calling your guy" this weekend: The bust of a smallish cocaine delivery ring has had considerable blowback (sorry) for a number of the dealers' customers, who have been arrested for their previous alleged drug purchases and paraded in front of a gleeful tabloid press. Among them: Chipotle’s chief creative and development officer Mark Crumpacker, 53; Fox Business producer Katie Welnhofer, 29; and Merrill Lynch associate Christopher Dodson, 28.
18 alleged buyers were arrested or named in the indictment; each buyer is charged with a single count of criminal possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor offense. Crumpacker, who was not immediately arrested yesterday because he was out of state, allegedly had cocaine delivered to his Manhattan home a few times. He's been placed on administrative leave by Chipotle.
The alleged dealers operated out of the Lower East Side and did many of their transactions at nightclubs, bars, and Duane Reade locations, using livery services as transport. Kenny 'Jay' Hernandez, Felix Nunez and Oscar Almonte allegedly sold over $75,000 worth of cocaine over the course of the year-long investigation, which reportedly began as police investigated the suicide of Thomas J. Hughes, a junior banker on Wall Street who jumped to his death from his Lower Manhattan home last May.
A toxicology report revealed that Hughes had badly cut cocaine in his system. The NY Times later reported that "his blood and his brain were bathed in a combination of cocaine and ethylone, a recreational designer drug known as 'bath salts' that can cause a mixture of euphoria, paranoia and anxiety." A search of his cell phone reportedly led investigators to the LES-based delivery service.
"Drug dealers profit by sowing seeds of addiction that destroy lives, families, and communities,” District Attorney Cy Vance said yesterday. “We are dedicated to stemming both the supply and demand for dangerous narcotics, and the crime that accompanies the market for illegal drugs."
According to the indictment, customers would typically buy at least $200 worth of coke at a time. Dodson allegedly made at least 17 purchases of cocaine totaling $7,600 between January and May this year, with most of the transactions taking place at Duane Reade. In court yesterday, his lawyer asked an unsympathetic judge to release him without bail. The NY Post lapped it up in a story headlined "Judge mocks yuppies busted for buying coke":
Defense lawyer Phil Schnelwar argued that Dodson should be released without bail as he has no convictions.
He has no convictions in what sense?” the judge asked playfully.
“Criminal convictions,” the lawyer answered. “He does have convictions.”
“We haven’t seen any evidence of that,” [judge] McLaughlin retorted. “He has so much money I’m sure he’ll be able to post.”
Another defendant, accountant Roman Yoffe, 33, appeared in court with his 9-months-pregnant wife "sitting teary eyed in the gallery." Judge McLaughlin denied a request to release him without bail, quipping, "Good luck with the baby!" after setting bail at $30,000 bond, cash alternative $7,500, an amount the Post notes is usually reserved for felonies.
Welnhofer's lawyer's request for no bail was met with similar derision by the judge, who said, "I think maybe it’s just for persnicketiness on my part, I think someone who is either a user or addicted is inherently unreliable, so I am not sanguine about the prospects of you remembering your court appearance."
"While we’re doing everything we can to stop supply, we also have to focus on the reality that there is no sale without demand,” Vance also said yesterday. "And so making sure those people who are using services to purchase cocaine understand that there is a connection between what they purchased and what happens in the neighborhood where those drugs are sold immediately."
Hernandez, the alleged kingpin, is charged with operating as a major trafficker, criminal sale of a controlled substance, and other charges. His fellow dealers, Nunez and Almonte, face charges of criminal sale of a controlled substance and conspiracy.
And thus ends the War on Drugs.