08.10.2011

Investigators lay out case against alleged drug kingpin in hearing

By Denis J. O’Malley

It took Derrick “Boss” Ward little more than a handful of phone calls over  the course of an afternoon to arrange a 131-gram shipment of crack from New York  City to Scranton when his supply ran dry, investigators testified at a hearing  Friday morning.

Mr. Ward, 36, of the Bronx, N.Y., appeared in Lackawanna County Court before  Magisterial District Judge Robert Russell for a preliminary hearing along with  five of his co-defendants in the state attorney general’s office’s “Operation  Sunset” case.

Mr. Ward is accused of funneling crack from New York City into Scranton via  subordinates from January, when the investigation began, until his arrest along  with 35 of his alleged co-conspirators and customers during several raids  throughout Scranton on May 18.

Agent Leonard Musto of the state attorney general’s office, who conducted the  investigation along with Officer Jason Gula of the Scranton Police Department,  presented a series of wiretap recordings of calls Mr. Ward either made or  received on his cellphone on April 16 to illustrate his role atop an  organization he said worked “as a hierarchy.”

At about 12:30 that afternoon, Mr. Ward made a call in the Bronx to an  unidentified man with a Spanish accent who investigators say was his  supplier.

“Yo, what’s the number?” Mr. Ward asked.

“37,” the man answered, indicating that a gram of crack would cost $37, Agent  Musto explained.

“Whoa, where did he make that conclusion on that phone call?” Mr. Ward’s  attorney, Christopher T. Powell, interjected, objecting to what he saw as  speculation by Agent Musto on the brief conversation.

Judge Russell permitted Agent Musto’s testimony as both the defense and  prosecution had agreed to recognize Agent Musto and Officer Gula as experts on  narcotics trafficking and coded language for the purposes of Friday’s  hearing.

Throughout the hearing, Mr. Powell repeatedly objected to what he saw as  speculation or hearsay on the part of Officer Gula and Agent Musto throughout  their testimonies, though, despite the ensuing arguments between him and Deputy  Attorney General Timothy Doherty, the judge repeatedly permitted the remarks in  question.

“They can throw as much against the wall as they want; obviously, it didn’t  stick,” Mr. Doherty said of the debates over the admissibility of the  investigators’ testimonies.

Mr. Doherty proceeded to walk Agent Musto through Mr. Ward’s phone calls that  afternoon in April, leading him next to a call at about 12:45 between Mr. Ward  and the suspected supplier in which Mr. Ward, as Agent Musto explained, placed  an order for 131 grams of crack.

Less than an hour after calling in the order, Mr. Ward received a call from  one of his alleged subordinate dealers, Ransford Robinson, 33 – who was also  charged in the case – informing him that he had been inundated with customers’  calls and asked when his supply would be replenished.

At 2, Mr. Ward called his alleged transporter of product and new employees  from New York, Rashad Roper, 22, of the Bronx, and asked him to meet him  outside, Agent Musto explained of the recording.

By 5:20, Mr. Ward had received a call from Mr. Roper informing him that he  would arrive in Scranton in his black BMW in about 10 minutes.

Mr. Ward then called Mr. Robinson and ordered him to meet the shipment at the  Wendy’s on Wyoming Avenue and provide Mr. Roper with his money in exchange for  the new product, Agent Musto said of that call’s recording.

Agent Musto presented surveillance photographs to Judge Russell depicting  both the BMW in the parking lot at Wendy’s and Mr. Robinson walking to meet the  vehicle.

After tailing Mr. Roper’s vehicle out of town and onto Interstate 80, Agent  Musto and Officer Gula contacted state police and requested they pull the BMW  over for suspect identification, which verified the Bronx man’s presence behind  the wheel, Agent Musto testified.

After nearly eight hours of testimony, Judge Russell bound over all of the  charges against Mr. Ward: two counts of participating in a corrupt organization,  one count each of criminal conspiracy to deliver cocaine, possession with intent  to deliver cocaine, delivery of cocaine and criminal use of a communication  facility as well as additional charges related to a stolen gun and crack found  during a search of his vehicle.

Five additional defendants appeared at the hearing on Friday, and the charges  against them were bound over as well. They are:

  • €‚Joseph McAlister, 54, 1035 Quincy Ave., Scranton: two counts of  participating in a corrupt organization and one count each of criminal  conspiracy to deliver cocaine, possession with intent to deliver cocaine,  delivery of cocaine and criminal use of a communication facility.
  • Willard Abram, 51, 1011 Mount Vernon Ave., Scranton: one count each of  criminal use of a communication facility, criminal solicitation to deliver  cocaine and possession of cocaine.
  • Ralph “Junior” Kemper, 36, 825 Capouse Ave.,, Scranton: two counts each  of participating in a corrupt organization, criminal conspiracy to deliver  cocaine and marijuana, possession with intent to deliver cocaine and marijuana  and delivery of cocaine and marijuana, and one count of criminal use of a  communication facility.
  • Keyur “J Cool” Adhayapak, 19, 560 Adams Ave., Scranton: two counts each  of participating in a corrupt organization, criminal conspiracy to deliver  cocaine and marijuana, possession with intent to deliver cocaine and marijuana  and delivery of cocaine and marijuana, and one count of criminal use of a  communication facility.
  • Richard Griffin, 55, 1513 Vine St., Scranton: two counts of participating  in a corrupt organization and one count each of criminal conspiracy to deliver  cocaine and marijuana, possession with intent to deliver cocaine, delivery of  cocaine and criminal use of a communication facility.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/investigators-lay-out-case-against-alleged-drug-kingpin-in-hearing-1.1188149#ixzz1d8Df91cu

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