MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A veteran first responder is charged with peddling deadly drugs.
He’s one of 29 people arrested on drug and conspiracy charges in early morning raids Tuesday, New York State Police said.
Investigators say a suburban firehouse was at the center of the illegal activity.
The raids were part of “Operation Bread, White and Blues,” and came as a result of an investigation into four people that got started last August. Authorities targeted 15 different locations in the 4 a.m. raids, nine of which required tactical teams to participate.
A home to lifesaving first responders allegedly became the center of a drug operation that peddled deadly Fentanyl.
“The unsuspecting purchasers could do one pill and die. It’s that dangerous,” said Capt. Brian Shortall of the New York State Police.
The Fentanyl pills, known on the street as “blueberries,” were falsely sold as painkillers, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported. Agents recovered more than $200,000, 25 handguns, an assault rifle and other rifles, 2.5 pounds of cocaine, 1,300 Fentanyl pills, ten vehicles and two motorcycles in the raids.
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They say nearly 250 law enforcement personnel participated in the raids and investigation, including 193 state police, 30 FBI agents and 20 DEA agents.
Paul Smith, 48, who works as a lieutenant in the City of Middletown Fire Department faces charges of operating as a major trafficker, conspiracy and possessing and selling controlled substances.
John Beltempo, a former police officer in Rockland County, is among those arrested.
Click here for more information from the New York State Police, including the names and charges of all 29 defendants.
Smith is the accused ringleader, accused of holding illicit meetings and selling from the firehouse.
“Yes, it is [disappointing]… Things happen. It’s a shame,” said Charlie Greenhouse of Sullivan County.
The Middletown mayor has known Smith for about 30 years. He says Smith started to change about two years ago when he joined a motorcycle club. Investigators say two biker clubs were involved in distributing the durgs, and Lt. Smith had connections with both.
“It’s very disturbing that a man dedicated to protecting and serving and saving lives would be at the epicenter of destroying lives and families,” said Middletown Mayor John DeStefano.
An apartment in Nyack was one of the locations raided. It was home to Marquis Gamble, one of the alleged drug suppliers.
“He came here with a pickup truck. Couple of months later, he’s driving a Mercedes,” said neighbor Sam Hill.
Officials say they will review procedures at the firehouse, stung by Smith’s alleged willingness to corrup it with drug dealing.
The state police says the operation’s name “Bread, White And Blues” referred to the money, cocaine and blue Fentanyl pills involved.
District Attorney David Hoovler said Fentanyl is the leading cause of deaths in Orange County.
It’s not known if this ring sold any drugs that took lives.