By Jim Wright
Press & Sun-Bulletin
Friday November 10,2006
Article: OWEGO -- Operation Lightning Strike, a nearly six-month-long investigation into drug trafficking in Tioga County, has led to the arrest of 56 people on drug-related offenses in the last 60 days, Tioga County Sheriff Gary W. Howard said.
"Fight Back" Comment: Some subjects of this sting have been in question in this and other investigations and/or citizen complaints from one to three years or more. Operation Lightning Strike is one of many stings created since the original never ending investigations started in 1999. The 1999 investigation is simply a continuation or new name for investigations carried over from the 1970's. Recently a NYS police investigator questioned my knowledge of meth in Tioga County after one of my letters to the editor. He finaly reconsidered his challenge of my knowledge by claiming he was talking about the new meth of 1999 not meth in general. My response was, you are now talking about new meth because you failed to solve the old meth problem. The truth does not require marketing experts and spin doctors.
Article: "This is a clear warning to drug traffickers to stay out of Tioga County," said Matthew G. Barnes, district special agent in charge of the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration in Albany.
"Fight Back" Comment: Many stings are labeled five or six months. The reality is each investigation adopts a sting label during the final stages of investigations that may be years old. Stings are portions of long-term investigations that are targeted for many reasons. Many stings are created for political agendas, grant and funding renewal or to pacify citizen complaints. Most stings have little or no affect on the flow of drug trafficking. This type of operation is a bulletin telling drug traffickers there are $550.000.00 worth of customers waiting to be served. That is $550,000 in a 60 day priod knowing that only a small protion of the overall investigation has ignored untold quantities. Drug trafficking will most likely increase in the following months. Drug Traffickers now realize the heat is off again for a few years. Albany does not have a clue how insignificant this sting was, or they do and insist on continuing this long-term no win agenda.
Article: Howard announced the arrests Thursday at the Tioga County Public Safety Building, describing the defendants as mid level to street-level drug dealers. He was flanked by Tioga County District Attorney Gerald Keene of Waverly, and DEA officers.
"Fight Back" Comment: So basically "ZERO" high level dealers (King Pins) were arrested. The providers to mid and low level dealers are out here supplying new dealers that will fill the needs of $550,000 in customers. Those not arrested will regroup multiple and secure future funding for future arrest.
Article: Of those arrested, 25 live in Tioga County and 20 live in Broome. Howard said many of the cases were from the Village of Owego. Additional arrests are expected, he said.
"Fight Back"Comment: None
Article: "There has never been anything this extensive," said Howard, who called the operation the most significant in the 30 years he's been with the department.
"Fight Back" Comment: There was a drug bust within the past ten years that netted one hundred suspects.
Article: Howard said this was only Phase One of Operation Lightning Strike. He didn't know how many phases there would be in the sting. Barnes said Tioga County had been given a priority by his office because it has had a problem with laboratories since 1999.
"Fight Back" Comment: Tioga has had methamphetamine labs since the late 1970's. If they continue their policy of long-term investigations that allow these labs to multiply and prosper they could secure funding and job security for endless phases to this no solution approach to the decades old drug problem.
Article: The investigation started out targeting labs and sales, but ended up mostly netting crack cocaine, marijuana, marijuana plants and heroin with a street value in excess of $340,000, according to Howard. A single seizure netted 75 pounds of marijuana with a $210,000 street value in a case initiated by state police.
"Fight Back" Comment: $550.000 and only 56 arrested and Only 2 methamphetamine labs Taken out. One of them in PA. Meth labs investigated since 1999 according to authorities. It does not take much to see something is wrong. One of the meth labs and two of the people involved have been busted more than once in the past five months.
Article: The investigation, which spilled into Pennsylvania, also resulted in the seizure of $6,000 in cash, three automobiles and seven handguns.
"Fight Back" Comment: None
Article: Two meth labs, one in Castle Creek in Broome County and one in LeRaysville in Pennsylvania, were eradicated during the investigation period. But Howard said there wasn't as much meth around as expected.
"Fight Back" Comment: The Castle Creek lab has been eradicated three times in the past five months. The occupants arrested more than once in felony meth lab stings at this and other locations. The castle Creek address has been reported raided and eradicated as 188 King Street Castle Creek, 188 King Street Chenango Forks and 188 King Street Town of Barker. At this moment one of the persons arrested in multiple Meth lab stings is living at 188 King Street with all signs of continued illegal activity.
Article: "I'm really surprised. I thought we would pick up a few methamphetamine laboratories, but the amount of crack cocaine filled the gap," said Jorge Marrero, supervisor and special agent assigned to the Methamphetamine Enforcement Team.
"Fight Back" Comment: No one is more surprised than the local residents who reported numerous meth labs for years. Citizens who are now watching illegal activity continue by people arrested on felony meth lab charges more than once in several months. No one is more surprised than the citizens who know for a fact that multiple Meth labs are ignored for the glory of a photo-op and justification for more funding to reap little results at the tax payers expense and safety. *What gap has been filled or satisfied? Certainly not the gap that has put the community and its youth, property values and safety at risk.
Article: Keene expects to begin submitting 12 to 15 cases to a Tioga County grand jury as early as next week.
"Fight Back" Comment: Keene should be submitting 120-150 cases as a minimum effort. The citizens are very well aware of dozens of meth labs ignored by many other stings conducted since the late 1970's.