- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 4, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - State authorities on Tuesday charged 20 people with participating in a violent upstate New York drug ring they said got help from a policeman who was a cocaine customer.

At least 16 people were arrested Tuesday, including the ex-officer, whose involvement was discovered recently, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. The yearlong investigation by his Organized Crime Task Force and local authorities followed an uptick in violence attributed to the Troy-based Young Gunnerz, including shots fired April 19 at rivals in Albany.

“These folks were shooters,” Schneiderman said.

The indictments contain long lists of conspiracy and drug charges.

Police displayed two confiscated semi-automatic handguns. They reported seizing more than 1,000 grams of cocaine, 100 bags of heroin and an ounce of raw heroin, saying the upstate traffickers bought large quantities, including illegal prescription drugs, from an unidentified Bronx supplier for resale upstate.

According to investigators, the former officer, Nicholas Pontore, resigned from the Watervliet Police Department in June after his main contact with the gang was arrested. He was arraigned on charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and drug possession, with bond set at $100,000.

Defense attorney Arthur Frost said that, at most, Pontore is accused of a very small part in this case: buying drugs. He said any accusation that the officer protected the gang by providing information about police activities is false.

“He’s accused of being an addict, basically,” he said.

Daquan Murray, of Troy, was one of the gang’s leaders and was jailed without bail, authorities said. Those arrested pleaded not guilty at arraignments Tuesday.

The task force said it has made more than 580 felony arrests against 25 trafficking gangs around the state, seizing more than $1.5 million and more than 2,000 pounds of drugs.


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