Tags Posts tagged with "Drugs"

Drugs

Stock photo

At a time when budgets will be extremely tight amid the gradual economic recovery caused by the virus-induced economic shutdown, investing in organizations that help people deal with mental health problems and substance abuse now could save considerably more money later.

That’s the argument Family and Children’s Association Chief Executive Officer Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds makes, particularly as Suffolk and Nassau County Executives Steve Bellone (D) and Laura Curran (D) urge more federal aid for Long Islanders.

“When you have untreated mental health and substance abuse disorders, the county will pay for that one way or the other,” Reynolds said in an interview. “The question is: do you want to pay for it upfront or on the back end,” with the loss of life from drug overdoses.

Jeffrey Reynolds, the CEO of the Family and Children’s Association. Photo from FCA website

Throughout Long Island, Reynolds, who had previously been the Executive Director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, said the emphasis on basic needs among families has increased, particularly as the number of unemployed in the area has approached 200,000.

Many of the unemployed are “involved in low wage jobs to begin with” and are living “at the margins,” so there is a need for food, rental assistance, and housing, he said. The basic needs have increased significantly.

The transition to telehealth has been effective for those with mild or moderate challenges and, in some ways, is even easier than walking into a church basement or going to a center. The first step, which is often the hardest in entering any kind of treatment program, involves fewer logistical challenges and allows people to remain anonymous.

At the same time, however, some of these virtual efforts are problematic for those who are dealing with a significant level of impairment.

People who have a more acute mental health condition are “less likely to engage via telehealth” and the same holds true for people with severe substance abuse, Reynolds said. “A virtual session is not the same as seeing them in person and groups are not the same as they were before.”

FCA has seen an increased demand for services for people who were anxious or depressed. Fear or a lack of control brought on by the virus is bringing some of these symptoms to the surface.

“Across the board, we are seeing an increased demand for services,” Reynolds said. “There is now space in which we’re not seeing that request.”

The virus has made health care disparities more visible. The numbers of illnesses and fatalities in Brentwood, for example, are 12 times higher than in Garden City. That relates to preexisting conditions like obesity and diabetes, but also to the crowded living conditions in Brentwood.

The combination of the business closings such as gyms, restaurants, movie theaters, and other enterprises creates anxiety and impacts family structure and family functioning, Reynolds said.

Long Island has had to cope with previous recessions and downturns from disasters like Superstorm Sandy, but this is “even deeper. I imagine we’re going to see the ripple effects for a decade to come.”

Reynolds is concerned about people returning to their normal lives at some point, without addressing underlying problems in the communities or with other families.

Still, Reynolds feels fortunate to work for an organization that has existed and helped communities and neighborhoods for 135 years. That means the group was around during the Spanish Flu in 1918 and 1919.

“What keeps me going is that we’re always had to do more with less,” Reynolds said. “We found hope in people’s lives where it seems like there isn’t.”

Indeed, the group not only survived the Spanish Flu, but also made it through both World Wars, the Great Depression, 9/11, and numerous natural disasters.

Additionally, on the positive side, the FCA can provide services in a much timelier way. People who call with a drug or alcohol problem can get some help within ten minutes. The current environment provides the equivalent of “treatment on demand,” Reynolds said.

The FCA head urged people to get involved, which could mean volunteering time at a school, offering help to a local charity or checking on an elderly neighbor.

He urged people to dedicate some of the time they spend on social media to helping others.

Reynolds has spoken with numerous people who have alcohol dependency. When they finally get treatment, some of them have said, “If it was that bad, why didn’t anybody say something to me?”

He urged friends and family to care for each other, asking about weight loss or prolonged sleep. He suggested having conversations that go beneath the surface.

Children and families benefit from structure, especially in a challenging environment. Reynolds suggested a regular evening meal time and a consistent time and place for homework.

Ultimately, as the head of a 135-year old organization, Reynolds said people need to believe that “you can get through this,” he said. “Even if it feels like the world is ending, it’s not.”

Police acquired several million dollars worth of drugs during a seizure of several Suffolk County residents. Photo from DA's office.

Suffolk County district attorney, Tim Sini (D), announced three people in Suffolk and two from New Jersey were indicted in an alleged multimillion dollar drug trafficking ring, with officials saying they seized over a million in cash, 19 kilograms of drugs and numerous guns during the takedown.

Police took millions of dollars in cash from three Suffolk County residents as part of a drug smuggling ring bust. Photo from DA’s office

Sini announced in a press release that James Sosa, 25, of Wading River, Anthony Leonardi, 46, of Coram, and Brian Sullivan, 24, of Lake Grove, and two other individuals from New Jersey allegedly helped purchase and ferry narcotics, including cocaine and heroin, from the West Coast to Long Island partially during the pandemic. The group used residential homes in Lake Grove, Wading River, Port Jefferson Station, Coram, Selden and Brentwood, the DA said.

Sini worked with Suffolk County Police Department, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General.

“The magnitude of this drug distribution ring is enormous; they were responsible for peddling millions of dollars in narcotics on an almost weekly basis,” Sini said in the release. “Not only did this organization continue their illicit operation during the coronavirus pandemic, they were also exploiting the limited availability of certain narcotics during the health crisis to generate even greater profits off their sales.”

The DA, Suffolk police and DEA launched the investigation in May 2019 investigating Sosa, Sullivan and their associates. The group allegedly used multiple methods to get the drugs to the East Coast, including cross-country trips in vehicles and airplanes and even through the mail. Police executed warrants June 27 at locations within the six hamlets, which the DA said resulted in seizing 16 kilograms of cocaine, 2 kilograms of heroin, about $1.5 million in cash, around 4,000 oxycodone pills, nine firearms, along with “numerous luxury vehicles” and equipment the DA said is used for packaging and selling drugs. The police had also seized an additional kilogram of cocaine earlier in the investigation. The cocaine had an estimated street value of $1.6 million and the heroin was worth about $520,000.

Dashawn Jones, 33, of Passaic, New Jersey, was charged with allegedly operating as a major trafficker and first-degree drug possession. Anthony Cyntje, 22, also of Passaic, was charged with first-degree drug possession and was described as being employed as a correction officer in New Jersey.

“This investigation exemplifies how drug traffickers have been impacted by the coronavirus; adapting smuggling methods, transportation routes and money laundering operations to maintain security and social distancing,” said Ray Donovan, New York DEA special agent in charge.

Sosa, who was charged with two counts as a major trafficker, among other counts, was arraigned June 28 with bail set from $7.5 million cash or bond. Sosa’s attorney, Glenn Obedin, a criminal defense lawyer in Central Islip, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sosa, Sullivan and Jones each face 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the top counts, Leonardi 12 1/2 to 25 years and Cyntje 8 1/3 to 25 years, Sini said.

Treatment centers often recommend that reformed users preserve their identity in the press. Their stories are more important than ever and one young woman wants people to know that, yes, it is possible to recover from opioid and alcohol addiction. Photo by Anonymous

I’m writing today to share some hope. In November, I will miraculously have been six years sober. I say it is a miracle because for the longest time I believed I was hopeless, and I thought I would never find any peace until I was dead. It sounds very harsh but that’s exactly where my addiction lead me. 

I come from a small town in Suffolk County. Growing up there was a lot of chaos to say the least. I always felt out of place, like something was missing, or that I just didn’t belong here. I was filled with so much fear, pain and anxiety that I could physically feel this emptiness inside of me. Like a pit in my stomach that never went away. I was left to my own devices and with no way to cope at 13 years old I found drugs and alcohol worked well for me. The second I put a substance in my body things changed. I was OK, I could breathe, I could go to school, I could have a conversation, I could do all the things my anxiety stopped me from doing. Most of all I felt peace, something that was foreign to me, but of course I wanted more. 

More, more, more. There were never enough drugs for me, I was like a bottomless pit. I would drink until I was throwing up and then drink some more. I wasn’t one of those dainty girls you would see holding a cute mixed drink, I was the one sniffing lines in the bathroom and chasing it with a bottle. It was always very clear to me that I partied harder than my friends. Getting high was my only real goal and nothing else mattered. At 15 I stumbled upon Vicodin. My friend had a prescription after getting her tooth extracted and shared it with me. From that moment on I didn’t want anything else, just that feeling one more time. 

After two days, between the both of us, the script was gone. Painkillers were my hero. No waiting for alcohol to kick in, no getting sloppy and not being able to walk or speak. No smell. I had finally found what I had been looking for, a way to conceal the fact that I was high all the time. From then on, I found a drug dealer with OC 80s [OxyContin 80 mg] and my happiness relied on him answering the phone.

One day before school — I think ninth grade — I could not get out of bed. My entire body ached, I was sweating, had the chills and I was throwing up. I had no idea what was going on. I called my friend. She asked if I was coming out and I said, “What?! I am so sick I can’t even move.” She replied, “You’re dope sick.” No one told me about this. So, I went outside, sniffed an OC 80 and, voilà, in two minutes I was fine. I had only been taking the pills for about one week before I became physically dependent. Now, I was not only emotionally and mentally dependent, but now my body relied on the pills physically. 

People think that using drugs and alcohol is a choice, and it may have been a choice the first time I used them, but after that I had no choice in the matter. Drugs were like oxygen. It wasn’t a want, it was a need. The truth is that this was the case for me even when I wasn’t sick. After a couple of attempts at getting sober, I found that even when my body wasn’t screaming at me for more, my mind was. I went to my first inpatient rehab at 15. Wanting to do the right thing wasn’t enough. My mother would beg and plead. My brother would cry, my sister would try to fight me physically every time I walked out the door. My boyfriend would break up with me. Nothing mattered. Nothing could stop me. I stopped going to school, I couldn’t hold a job, I couldn’t be in any relationship. My life completely evolved around getting high. 

Pills were expensive and at 16 it’s hard to make enough money to support a drug habit, especially when you’re dope sick half of the time. I learned that heroin was cheaper. What’s funny to me is when you say the word heroin, and everyone goes “O-o-h,” the same people that drink until they can’t walk and sniff lines in dirty bathrooms look at you crazy when you mention the word heroin. I wasn’t afraid of it. Not even for a second. I had my friend teach me how to mix it, filter it and shoot it. Less money and a quicker delivery. My life was already spiraling at a rapid rate so I thought, “How bad can this be?” 

I was not allowed in or near my family’s house, dropped out of school and my old friends wanted nothing to do with me. My life was a cycle of get money, get high, get sick, repeat. 

From ages 15 to 20, I had been to 10 inpatient facilities and had a couple of stays in the psych ward. Some inpatient stays were 21 days long; some were two months, some were three. The longest stay was six months. 

On my 18th birthday, I got on the methadone clinic program, thinking it would solve all my problems and it did for a little bit. My dad allowed me to live with him, I got my GED certificate, I got a job. But the thing is they wanted me to stop using other drugs in combination with the methadone and I wasn’t capable of that. Back to rehab I went — it was the worst detox ever. 

My life was out of control. I was a mess internally and externally. The drugs stopped working. I was restless, irritable and discontent with and without them. For two years, I lived my life thinking I was better off dead. I was done. There are no other words than “done.” I figured since I didn’t want to live anymore and I knew other people had gotten sober, I would go to rehab one last time. So off I went. The funny thing about me: Once I’m detoxed and feeling better, I think I don’t need to take anyone’s suggestions and that I know what’s best for me. I guess I like to learn things the hard way. So, I ignored the suggestion of going to a sober house, went home with the best intentions of being a good person of society and before I knew it, I was calling the drug dealer. 

Coming to … I was constantly coming to. “How in the world did I get here?” I would think over and over. That’s where the powerlessness comes in. I didn’t want to do what I was doing, but I didn’t know how not to. If it was as easy as “just stop” using my “willpower” I would have stopped a long time ago. No one wants to break the hearts of everyone who loves them. No one wants to steal, and lie, and manipulate. It’s like being in survival mode. So, I learned the hard way for about a year, ignoring suggestions and thinking, “I know what’s best,” and falling on my face over and over. 

It was November of 2013. Everything I owned, including my cat, was in the car of someone I was using with. Talk about wanting to die. So, for the 100th time, I was done. This time wasn’t really any different than any other time. I said I was done. I didn’t really think this time would be different. I just remember I prayed. Something really honest. Every rehab I called was full, no beds. For six days, I prayed to get a bed. I couldn’t go on. I prayed for God to help. I prayed to forget everything I thought I knew, I prayed for relief from this obsession, I prayed to be guided, I prayed to be really done this time, I prayed and said if this doesn’t work, please just let me die. On the sixth day, the rehab called me back and told me that they had a detox bed. When I went to the rehab, I was done thinking I knew what was best for me. I made it very clear numerous times that I obviously had no idea. I was listening to someone in recovery speak one day and she said, “I’m here to give you a message of hope and a promise of freedom.”

If you could see inside my head, you would see the light bulb. It finally hit me. I needed to listen to other recovered people and rely on their guidance. 

Today I pray to live, I am thankful I get to live this life. Today I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife, a mother, an employee. Today I show up when life is good and when life is bad. Today I get to be present. Today life is a gift. I’m writing this article on my son’s fourth birthday. I’m getting it to the editor the day before the due date because even though I’m sober, I’m not perfect and I do procrastinate. But it just so happened that the day I finally got it done is my son’s birthday and I’m reminded again that every day is a gift. 

I am grateful that I took the suggestions that were given to me at the rehab: I went to the sober house, I went to the meetings, I listened to the people who came before me that have maintained their sobriety, and I prayed.

Every day I get to work with people like myself and today my life is about helping other people and giving back what was freely given to me. I’m writing today to tell you that we do recover, and there is hope. No one is hopeless. If you are struggling, please reach out for help because help is available, and miracles are real! 

Sincerely,

Someone who believes in you

 

Addiction recovery resources

Narcotics Anonymous Hotline

 631-689-6262

St. Charles Hospital Chemical Dependency Program

631-474-6233

Long Island Center for Recovery

 631-728-3100

Phoenix House

888-671-9392

Addiction Campuses

 631-461-1807

Nassau University Medical Center

516-572-0123

Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

 631-979-1700

Eastern Long Island Hospital:

631-477-1000

Villa Veritas Foundation

845-626-3555

St Christopher’s Inn

845-335-1000

Seafield

800-448-4808

Hope House Ministries

631-928-2377

Family Service League

631-656-1020

Central Nassau Guidance and Counseling Services

516-396-2778

Talbot House

631-589-4144

Alcoholics Anonymous helpline

631-669-1124

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

800-273-8255

Local Link Wellness

631-909-4300

by -
0 963

By Julianne Mosher

For five years, the Engel family of Miller Place has been putting together a basketball tournament and barbecue in memory of their late son, Jake, who tragically lost his life in 2015 to a heroin overdose. 

But this year was special for the Jake Engel Hoops for Hope Barbecue – which sold out in just three days. On Friday, July 12, Brookhaven town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) stood with Jake’s family at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai to reveal the new name of the court that overlooks the harbor: The Jake Engel Memorial Basketball Court.

Inscribed with the words “Shine On” and an image of a man fishing, the notion for the memorial was decided last year. 

“Basketball and fishing are what Jake loved to do,” Bonner said. “This sign is a reminder of why we are here today and why we play this game every year.”

Shortly after Jake’s death, his brother and friends spontaneously organized a community basketball tournament in his name. Over the course of four years, the organization has raised over $40,000 that has been donated to Hope House Ministries, a Port Jefferson-based nonprofit organization that provides care and hope to individuals suffering
from addiction.

“Our main goal is to bring awareness of the opioid crisis we have here on Long Island and to bring the community together,” Jake’s mother, Karen Engel, said. 

The four-and-a-half hour event consisted of 28 teams of three to four players. Over a dozen volunteers helped with selling T-shirts, food and refreshments, along with a large raffle of donated items. Friday’s event raised roughly $12,000 and was the first year of the organization as a nonprofit. 

“This year’s tournament was really successful,” Geoff Engel, Jake’s brother, said. 

Four months ago, the family officially established the Jake Engel Hoops for Hope Foundation that looks to bring awareness, community and change to all people negatively affected by substance abuse in Suffolk County. 

“I want to thank the Engel family for taking such a horrible tragedy and turning it into something special,” Bonner said, “It takes a special person to do that.”

by -
0 579
SEPA Mujer shows their support for immigrants by donning yellow bracelets. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Everyone has an opinion on how to handle the border crisis. Having recently gone directly to the southwest border to talk about solutions with U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, recent migrants and local politicians, several things are clear.

Perry Gershon. Photo from SCDC

First, contrary to some of the national narratives, most border crossers today come to ports of entry and seek asylum. They do not dart or swarm the locations between ports of entry. Yes, there are some scrambling crossers, but the entire crisis has tipped toward ports of entry, which is why more efficiently processing asylum claims is so important and increasingly difficult.

Second, while human and drug trafficking are serious issues, these individuals do not comprise the bulk of current illegal crossers, even as numbers of Central American refugees continue to rise. Our border laws are designed to deter those sneaking into the country, not managing large volumes turning themselves in — hoping for asylum.

The bulk of those at our borders are economic migrants, some of whom may be entitled to asylum, but all of whom are fleeing a part of this hemisphere overwhelmed by public corruption, poverty, violent crime, drug trafficking and general disorder. 

This suggests a need not only for better processing of asylum claims, and more systematic ways of housing asylum seekers, but finding better ways to incentivize these economic migrants to stay in their countries of origin, rather than seeking escape, refuge and opportunity here. Rather than abandoning rule of law programs in these unstable Central American countries, we should be reinforcing stability and the rule of law.

Third, agents in places like Arizona speak with one, clear, consistent voice. They are legally able to monitor and enforce our border, and capture and turn illegal crossers over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but they are not responsible for processing, long-term detention or deportation. In effect, they are a small cog in a big machine, and what they face daily is both severe and growing. What they cannot control is the process of crafting a much-needed political solution.

Finally, no one can seriously discuss the border without discussing drug trafficking. Again, a dose of reality is vital. Drugs entering the United States over the southwest border include heroin, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and fentanyl, as well as other synthetics. 

But these drugs are not typically hustled in the dark of night, between ports of entry, over big desert swatches. No, they are methodically trafficked through ports of entry — hidden in trucks and cars, and on rail cars. Many transporting these drugs are mules, beholden to powerful Mexican drug cartels. Poor people who desperately lack options often transport these drugs for the cartels or face death.  

Again, the answer must be multifaceted. First, we must work with the Mexican government to enforce their borders and get serious about stopping demand here. Second, we should provide more treatment for those seeking a way out of addiction. Third, and most important, we should be teaching kids to make smart and healthy choices by helping them never to feel desperate enough to turn to addiction.

What lessons can we draw from recent conversations from those on the front lines of our southwest border? Several are obvious. First, we need to have a more organized and efficient system to process the vast number of asylum seekers.

How do we do that? We need more administrative asylum judges, even if reassigned from other tasks temporarily. We need smoother, faster interfaces between CBP, ICE and the judicial system. In managing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services treatment of unaccompanied minors, who go from ICE to HHS after 20 days, we need more effective ways of protecting and processing claims. 

We need to work more closely with the Mexican government to agree on how to house the large numbers, optimally on the Mexican side of the border, which will prevent having to place large numbers of asylum seekers across the United States to await hearings. Finally, we should be asking Mexico to consider becoming a “safe third country” for asylum seekers, which would allow Central Americans to win asylum in Mexico also, reducing pressure on the U.S. border.

Last, and most important, we need to rethink how best to restore rule of law, stability, economic opportunity and foreign investment in Central America, to incentivize economic migrants to remain where they live, and to create opportunities and security there. This requires international engagement, and sustained commitments to neighbors. 

In the end, that investment will help us all. That is what going to the border taught me.

Perry Gershon is a national commentator on business, trade, policy and politics. A congressional candidate for New York’s 1st District, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a master’s in business administration  from University of California, Berkeley.

File photo

Suffolk County Police arrested a Centereach man May 22 following a narcotics investigation. Police said the man was trying to sell drugs at a playground with his daughter beside him.

During the course of the investigation, detectives apprehended Chaleek Williams for possession and intent to sell crack cocaine on the playground at the Oxhead Road Elementary School, located at 144 Oxhead Road, allegedly with his two-year-old daughter present. Williams was also allegedly in possession of a quantity of MDMA. As he was being placed under arrest, police said Williams became combative and had to be restrained by officers.

Williams, 25, of Centereach, was charged with multiple counts of possessing a controlled substance with intent to sell, as well as dndangering the welfare of a child and resisting arrest.

Williams was overnight at the 3rd Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip May 23.

The child was released into the custody of family.

by -
0 2211
Police conducted a warrant search on the home located at 535 High Street March 28. Photo from a Port Jeff resident
Police conducted a warrant search on the home located at 535 High Street March 28. Photo from a Port Jeff resident

Port Jefferson Village officials were notified March 28 of Suffolk County Police executing a search warrant on a house on High Street over allegedly possessing narcotics.

Suffolk County Police Narcotics Section detectives conducted an investigation regarding 535 High Street in Port Jefferson, and executed a search warrant at the residence March 28, police said.

Police arrested Richard Shelton, 33, a resident of the home. Shelton was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance for allegedly possessing cocaine. Shelton was set to appear today, March 29 at Suffolk County First District court in Central Islip. There is no attorney information available for Shelton as of March 29.

Police said the investigation is ongoing.

A crowd packed the auditorium of the William H. Rogers building to speak on legalized marijuana Photo by David Luces

By David Luces

When it comes to legalizing recreational marijuana, the debate continues in Suffolk County.

More than 100 people filled the Suffolk County Legislature chambers Feb. 25 for a public hearing on the legalization of recreational marijuana and its potential impact. The over two-hour meeting fueled a contentious debate between attendees, with supporters pointing to the tax revenue the county could gain from possible legalization and the health benefits attributed to marijuana. Opponents argued that it is a quality of life issue and their view of the plant as a gateway drug, supporting the idea of the county opting out. 

“When it comes to the young developing brain there are no such things as safe drugs.”

— Kym Laube

County legislators on the health committee held the hearing to gather input from the community as New York State inches closer to legalization. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) expressed his support for legal recreational cannabis in his inaugural address in early January. 

John Durso, president of Local 338, a union that represents close to 300 workers in the NYS medical cannabis industry, said he supports legalization and views it as a potential source of economic development in the county — if done right. 

“As we got to know more patients, caregivers and medical professionals, we learned even more about the benefits of medical cannabis,” Durso said. “In easing symptoms for those who are ill or those who suffer from chronic pain, [it gives them] the ability to live more fulfilled lives.” 

Durso added the legalization of cannabis is an opportunity to expand beyond the 5 percent of the New York population who are currently enrolled in the state program and allow more to benefit from its effects. 

Kym Laube, executive director of the nonprofit social services organization Human Understanding and Growth Services, said instead of focusing on just one drug we as a county need to address all drug use for the sake of children.

“When it comes to the young developing brain there are no such things as safe drugs,” Laube said. “Schools across Long Island are fighting this — I just don’t think we are ready today to allow this to come [into the county].” 

At first, her stance was a strong no for recreational marijuana, but now with legalization potentially on the horizon she hopes it can be delayed as long as possible. 

“Let’s think of how we can build our drug prevention infrastructure,” she said. “Let’s ensure before we roll this out that every youth has access to prevention as much as they have access to drugs.” 

Troy Smith, deputy director of the Empire State NORML, an advocacy group for the regulation and safe sale of marijuana, said he is not advocating for legalization, rather regulation to an existing industry and safe access to the plant. 

“I would like to urge you all to just say ‘no’ — don’t opt out,” he said. 

Smith said many law-abiding citizens partake in the consumption of marijuana, and legalization would lead to the existing business being regulated better so customers are protected. He also added by opting out the county would forfeit tax revenue and benefit drug dealers and criminals. 

David Falkowski, owner of Open Minded Organics in Bridgehampton, which grows industrial hemp and sells CBD oil, echoed Smith’s sentiments of not opting out. 

“I would like to urge you all to just say ‘no’ — don’t opt out.”

— Troy Smith

“If by chance the county feels like it needs to opt out, I just ask them that this decision is not left up to a small board of temporarily appointed representatives and that it goes to a referendum vote,” he said. His sentiments were followed by loud applause from pro-legalization supporters. 

Some residents expressed concerns about quality of life and potential second-hand smoke hazards. If the county chose not to opt out, one resident asked representatives to outlaw and prohibit smoking in multiple unit-dwelling buildings to avoid the issue of people getting a contact high. 

For Kimberly Miller of Deer Park, marijuana isn’t all about getting high — it is more personal. 

As a recovering alcoholic and sexual assault survivor who suffers from depression, anxiety and PTSD, Miller said, for her and others like her, microdosing marijuana fills the gap traditional medicine doesn’t provide.

“Today I’m here asking you to fill one last gap for me,” she said. “Legalize and regulate marijuana, like you do with alcohol and tobacco. Let me buy it from a reputable business and let me pay taxes on it. Build some commerce. It’s a win-win for both of us.” 

Commack HIgh School. Photo from Google Maps

Suffolk County police officers arrested a man who works as an evening custodian for the Commack School District after a search found he had a stash of illegal guns and drugs inside his Patchogue home.

Patrick Musumeci, 30, was arrested Feb. 6 by police officers and faces 24 drug- and weapons-related charges.

Patrick Musumeci. Photo from SCPD

Following an investigation, Suffolk’s 5th Squad Special Operations Team and Emergency Section Service officers along with 5th Precinct Gang Unit officers executed a search warrant on Musumeci’s home on Wilmarth Avenue at approximately 5:35 a.m.

In the raid, officers found 16 guns inside the Patchogue home, including one Glock semiautomatic handgun, a Taurus semiautomatic handgun and four assault rifles, with ammunition. Two of the guns, a Smith & Wesson pistol and Ruger pistol had both previously been reported stolen. In addition to the guns, officers seized five sets of brass knuckles and a switchblade.

In addition to the weapons, Suffolk County police officers seized quantities of both prescription opiates and illegal drugs from the Patchogue home. The drugs found included oxycodone, Xanax, concentrated cannabis, marijuana, morphine pills and packaging materials.

Musumeci is charged with three counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree, six counts of criminal possession in the seventh degree, two counts of criminal use of drug paraphernalia in the second degree, criminal possession of marijuana in the fourth degree, five counts criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, four counts criminal possession of a firearm, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree and one count of grand larceny in the fourth degree.

Commack school officials reacted to news of Musumeci’s arrest by posting a letter to district residents on its website.

“The district has found no evidence to date that he ever brought a weapon or drugs onto school property,” reads the district’s statement. “To date, we have not found any suspicious activity on school property.”

Prior to being hired, Musumeci was fingerprinted and underwent a background check by New York State, according to the district. He was cleared, and state law would have required the district to be notified of any subsequent arrests, of which they claim to have received none.

Commack school officials said the district also has conducted an extensive search of the employee lockers, areas of the buildings the evening custodian was responsible for overseeing and reviewed buildingwide video footage in the wake of the allegations.

“The district and its outside security consultant will continue to review its safety and security plans and determine whether or not additional precautions are warranted,” read the district’s statement.

Musumeci was arraigned Feb. 7 in 1st District Court in Central Islip. He was ordered held in lieu of $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond, which had not been posted as of Feb. 13.

Commack school officials said their investigation into the matter is ongoing and the district is fully cooperating with the Suffolk police department.

by -
0 1554
Carlos Encarnacion, Santiago Tavarez and Juan Lopez-Enriquez are charged with allegedly operating a drug ring out of a Port Jefferson Station barber shop. Photos from DA's office

Three men involved with the Man Cave Barbershop in Port Jefferson Station have been indicted for allegedly selling narcotics, including heroin, cocaine and fentanyl, which they allegedly marketed as heroin, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D).

Juan Lopez-Enriquez, 41, the barber shop’s manager, along with fellow barber Carlos Encarnacion, 33, and shop regular Santiago Tavarez, 64, allegedly used the premises of their shop to both cut and sell narcotics at approximately one kilogram a month, making approximately $50,000 a month from these drug sales, according to Sini.

“The Man Cave gave barbershop customers a choice of hair styles and a choice of drugs,” Sini (D) said at a press conference where his office unsealed the 53-count indictment of the three individuals Oct. 24. “When they should have been focusing on cutting hair, these defendants were in the back room, cutting fentanyl and cocaine.”

Starting in January, law enforcement from the District Attorney’s Heroin Task Force, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, New York bureau of the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations and the Suffolk County Police Department began investigating the alleged drug ring, using physical surveillance and electronic surveillance such as wiretapping. The police forces executed search warrants Oct. 4.

A search of the barber shop premises along with the other locations affiliated with the defendants revealed a hydraulic kilo press, two scales, packaging materials, approximately 20 grams of cocaine and approximately 200 grams of powder cutting agent, which is used to dilute narcotics to make them more profitable, according to the district attorney’s office.

Islip-based Attorney Robert Macedonio, who is representing Lopez-Enriquez, did not respond to a request for comment by press time. The defense attorneys for Tavarez and Encarnacion could not be reached.

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon (D) said several deputy sheriffs worked undercover to aid in the business’ surveillance.

“Deputy Sheriffs are working in close collaboration with the District Attorney’s Heroin Task Force, and this multi-agency effort is getting more drugs off our streets and making our communities safer,” Toulon said.

A loaded semi-automatic handgun and a box containing 38 cartridges of ammunition, which allegedly belonged to Lopez-Enriquez, were also seized. The alleged dealer is also being charged with criminal possession of a firearm.

If convicted both Lopez-Enriquez and Tavarez face eight to 20 years in prison for the top count of first-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance. Encarnacion faces a maximum of three to 10 years with several counts of second- and third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance.

“With fatal overdoses on the rise, law enforcement remains diligent in its pursuit to arrest those criminals seeking to fill their pockets on the vulnerabilities of others,” said Angel Melendez, the special agent in charge of HSI New York.

Man Cave Barbershop has since closed its doors, though review sites like Yelp show overall positive reviews from customers.

Bail was set for Lopez-Enriquez at $250,000 cash or $500,000 bond; $200,000 or $400,000 bond for Talverez; and $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond for Encarnacion. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Jacob Kubetz.