Suffolk prosecutors announced Tuesday the arrests of seven people on charges they sold Ketamine, an animal tranquilizer, as part of a drug trafficking ring with international ties that is believed to have made up to $1 million per month.
Among those rounded up were 33-year-old James Parrino of Holbrook and 36-year-old John DiPaola of Ronkonkoma, who were each charged with operating as a major trafficker under the new “Drug Kingpin” statute. The law was enacted last year to create harsher penalties for alleged big-time drug dealers who are accused of making $75,000 or more in annual sales. Both suspects were denied bail and remanded to Suffolk County jail.
“This particular ring was a very sophisticated ring,” Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said at a news conference where investigators displayed two shotguns, a berretta, more than a kilo of powdered Ketamine and $350,000 cash that was seized.
“Some of the more experienced undercover officers were saying that this was one of the best rings they’ve investigated in a long time,” Spota said.
The 18-month investigation was a joint effort between Suffolk police and prosecutors as well as the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. The ring was found to be distributing watered-down $4,000 kilograms of Ketamine, commonly known as “Special-K,” and selling five-milliliter bottles at $40 each, resulting in $400,000 worth of street sales, Spota said. The ringleaders were alleged to have imported the drug first from Pakistan, then China—eventually moving three kilos per month.
“Thankfully they kept great books and records which we are analyzing right now for other people who may be involved as well as additional moneys that can be seized,” Spota said.
The drugs would arrive in the United States at various addresses they were using and would be repackaged in vials that were purchased at a legitimate medical supply company in Pennsylvania. Experts say the drug is snorted, injected or mixed in a liquid and consumed for its hallucinogenic properties that can cause memory loss.
Prosecutors say it is popular in dance clubs, but also used by body builders. Except for licensed veterinarians, the use and possession of Ketamine, a controlled substance, is illegal.
“Very often its criminal use, as it was in this case, is as a club drug, but it is also abused by weightlifters who believe it aids in their muscle recovery after strenuous exercise,” Spota said. The district attorney said they sold the drug primarily to nightclubs in Suffolk but they don’t know which nightclubs the group found customers.
Parrino had been previously arrested on drug charges and was cooperating with investigators, but he told them that he went right back into the drug business after he was released on parole in 2006, Spota said.
Arrested and charged with conspiracy for their roles in the Special K ring were 33-year-old Dino Allocati of Queens and Joseph Schiliro, 30, of East Meadow. Allocati’s bail was set at $1 million cash or $2 million bond. Schiliro’s bail was set at $5,000 dollars cash.
Carl Vricella, 39, of Ronkonkoma was charged with criminal diversion of a prescription and criminal possession of cocaine. His bail was set at $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond.
Damien Novello, 32, of Bay Shore, was charged with criminal possession of a weapon when investigators found a loaded .22 Beretta handgun in his possession, as well as criminal possession of a controlled substance for a bottle of Ketamine detectives found in his hooded sweatshirt during a search of his home.
Melissa DiPaola, 26, of Ronkonkoma, Dipaola’s sister, was also charged with criminal possession of cocaine
Both Melissa Dipaola and Novello were issued desk appearance tickets.
John Dipaolo was also charged with menacing a police officer for allegedly threatening an investigator during a search warrant at his house.
“These people lived a very charmed life,” Spota said. “They drove fancy cars, they traveled abroad, they partied like there was no tomorrow. I can tell you this, this investigation will end their very charmed lifestyle.”
By Rashed Mian