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Chief: Recent Latham drug arrests to have little impact on trade

The arrests of 10 suspected drug runners Friday, Jan. 5, was a success for federal, state and local authorities, but at least one official said it will have little impact in the long run on the trade itself, especially as drug distribution hubs increasingly call suburbia home.

Members of the Drug Enforcement Agency and state and local agencies that make up the state police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team, ended a six-month investigation into a cocaine distribution ring with several arrests in New York City, Albany, Watervliet and at a suburban Latham rental property.

The raids landed 10 people in police custody who now face federal conspiracy to distribute crack and cocaine charges.

Authorities are calling the drug operation one of the more sophisticated ones they have taken down.

In terms of drugs seized; it's significant. What makes it more significant is that we were able to connect the drugs to an organization, said Eric Galerneau, a prosecutor with the Albany County District Attorney's Street Crime Unit.

On Jan. 5, law enforcement officials swarmed suspects at the Latham home, and made traffic stops in Watervliet, and another on Interstate 90. In that stop, officers, acting on information gathered through wiretaps, confiscated more than a kilogram of cocaine.

Simultaneously, officials raided the Bronx apartment of suspected ringleader Juan P. Montalvo, 24, also known as "China."

Galerneau said the organization was a sophisticated operation that resembled a legitimate corporation. They awarded cash bonuses for good behavior; such as avoiding police contact and not speeding when transporting the drugs, and withheld compensation when performance was less than satisfactory.

They operated following a structured chain of command with managers and runners, all of whom avoided contact with the street-level sellers they are suspected of supplying. The distribution hub was a Utica Avenue house in Latham.

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