NIAGARA FALLS – Six people were arrested early Monday in Operation Clean Sweep, as police conducted narcotics raids at five homes and a motel where two of the suspects were living.
TGhe raids were led by the Niagara Falls Police Department with the help of more than a dozen law enforcement agencies, including area SWAT teams, the Niagara County District Attorney’s office and federal agents.
Niagara Falls Police Chief E. Bryan DalPorto and Narcotics Capt. David LeGault said the raids were the result of months of investigation and preparation. Cocaine, prescription pills, marijuana and a shotgun were seized in the raids.
“I think it sends a clear message that Niagara Falls is not the place to do drugs or sell drugs and we will arrest you,” DalPorto said.
LeGault said there had been constant traffic in some of the houses, and police had received complaints from neighbors.
Both LeGault and DalPorto said the raids addressed quality-of-life issues involved in street-level drug dealing.
“These weren’t necessarily large-scale drug dealers, but were more of a nuisance. These are places that people were selling drugs and using drugs and we are trying to protect neighborhoods and keep them safe,” DalPorto said.
“Even those that aren’t high level types of dealers, the fact that they are dealing out of their homes just breeds so much potential trouble,” LeGault said. “Where you have these drug houses you often have some level of violence attached to it and it just tears apart the neighborhood.”
Raids were conducted in apartments at 630 20th St., 1642 Michigan Ave., 220 24th St., 413 27th St. and 1954 Cudaback Avenue with four arrests.
• Durrell Tabb, 24, of 27th St., was charged with felony third-degree possession of marijuana after almost a pound of marijuana was recovered, according to LeGault. He said investigators also seized a shotgun and an investigation is pending.
• Willie Johnson, 29, of Michigan Ave., was charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of marijuana, obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest, and endangering the welfare of a child after a young child was found in the house and Johnson allegedly fought with officers.
• Jacob Smouse Sr., 41, of Cudaback Ave. was charged with felony third and fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance for possession with intent to sell, and third-degree possession of marijuana.
• Enrique Molina, 26, of 20th Street was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana..
The Hospitality Inn at 6734 Niagara Falls Blvd., which was raided for the third time in the past few months, also was targeted. LeGault said they charged Donna DiGregorio, 48, who lives in a room at the motel and works there as an employee, and Michael A. Thornton, 51, who lives in the same room. Both were charged with third and fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Thornton was additionally charged with tampering with evidence, also a felony charge.
“[The Hospitality Inn] has been a problem and is definitely on our radar now,” LeGault said.
The raids involved SWAT teams from Niagara Falls, Buffalo, North Tonawanda, State Police and the Niagara County Sheriff Department; as well as officers from those departments and from the Niagara County District Attorney, Niagara County Probation, U.S. Drug Enforcement and Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol, Lockport, Lewiston, Town of Niagara and Town of Tonawanda police. The Niagara Falls Fire Department and Rural/Metro Medical Services were on standby in case anybody was injured. One person complained about shortness of breath but there were no injuries.