MALONE — Authorities arrested 34 Franklin County residents accused of drug sale or possession in one of the area’s biggest busts in years.
Another six suspects were still at large, Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne said.
The ongoing drug investigation led to the apprehension of 17 suspects in early morning raids. Additional arrests were made later in the day.
“(This is) probably the single largest roundup in the North Country for as long as I can remember,” Champagne said.
“We have this perfect storm going on,” he said of drug trafficking in the North Country, with dealers constantly trying to set up supply lines to the area.
“They’re not just groups, they’re actually gangs; they’re gang affiliations.”
Champagne urged citizens who are aware of possible drug activity to go to police.
“This is our community. We don’t want these people setting up shop on our street. ... Our counties aren’t so big and so urban that we can’t be invested in our local community.”
Purchase of Sudafed, batteries, Coleman fuel and other meth precursors can be a dead giveaway to drug dealing, he said, as can constant foot traffic in and out of a residence, especially one whose occupant has recently returned from a trip to New York City or another urban area.
WELFARE FRAUD PROBE
Champagne said authorities believe that 13 of those arrested in Saranac Lake on drug charges were illegally receiving federal or state assistance while selling drugs that were legally prescribed to them.
“That’s even more outrageous” than being charged with drug sale alone, Champagne said.
After a preliminary review with the Franklin County Department of Social Services, numerous instances of abuse have been identified and will be investigated further by Social Services and law-enforcement agencies, police said.
Agencies involved in the busts and investigation are the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police, Malone Police Department, Saranac Lake Police Department, Tupper Lake Police Department, St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Department, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Massena Border Enforcement Security Team and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.