From left, state police Maj. Wayne Olson; Ulster County Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum; Mayor Shayne Gallo, holding a broom; Chief Egidio Tinti; Undersheriff Frank Faluotico; and District Attorney Holley Carnright at Saturday's press conference. (Photo by Dan Barton)

In what was clearly the largest drug sweep/law enforcement operation in Kingston and Ulster County history, 101 suspects were taken into custody in the early morning hours and charged with a whopping total of 536 felonies.

At a Saturday afternoon press conference at Kingston City Court, law enforcement officials from the state police, county sheriff’s office and Kingston police announced the results of an operation that had been in the works since last August.

“Kingston is no longer open for business” for drug dealers, said Mayor Shayne Gallo. At the lectern was a broom – an appropriate prop for Operation Clean Sweep. Placed in front of the speakers – which included, besides Gallo, Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright, state Police Major Wayne Olson, city police Chief Egidio Tinti, Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum and Undersheriff Frank Faluotico – were placards bearing the mugshots and arrest information of the dozens of suspects, all with the words “In Custody” stamped upon them in red letters. All suspects had been previously indicted by a grand jury, which has been meeting on the cases for months, Carnright said.

Carnright said the operation was begun when his office caught wind of a new wave of drug dealers setting up in the city to fill the vacuum left when several members of the Bloods gang’s Sex Money Murder Set were taken off the streets in the wake of the February 2010 murder of C.J. King Jr.

The cases were made, police officials said, through months of painstaking undercover work, drug buys and observation. In the pre-dawn hours of Saturday morning, teams of officers from numerous agencies – state and city police, town police from Woodstock and Shawangunk and the U.S. Marshals Service – moved in on their targets. Suspects were taken to a central location, processed and sent to Ulster County Jail. “We had to build a new wing,” one official quipped. Some suspects are still at large, police officials said.

In total, 111 cases were opened, according to law enforcement officials; with 92 of those being sale cases. Eighteen of the suspects were on parole and nine were on probation. Thirty-six were members or associates of the Bloods; three were members or associates of the Crips; and five were members or associates of Blackout. Drug types seized included crack and powder cocaine and heroin; operatives bought and took off the streets 365 grams of cocaine, with a street value of $23,705. Sixteen cars and two guns were also seized, as well as an undisclosed amount of cash.

For more details, see this week’s edition of the Kingston Times.