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Drug ring busted in Forest Hills

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A Woodhaven man was among six people arrested last week on charges they allegedly ran a heroin distribution ring and delivery service in Forest Hills and Rego Park which catered to the Russian immigrant community, the Queens district attorney said last Thursday.

Queens DA Richard Brown said a husband-and-wife team, who allegedly obtained their drugs from the suspected supplier Severo Payano, 46, of 78-17 90th Rd. in Woodhaven, were the main defendants and sold as much as $80,000 in drugs a week.

“Our investigation, which began last February, revealed that many customers ordered drugs everyday from the ring whose members delivered it to various meeting places on the streets of Queens,” Brown said.

“The investigation also revealed that most of the defendants’ alleged customers were immigrants from the former Soviet Union who have settled here in Forest Hills and Rego Park and have become addicted to heroin,” he said.

Payano is accused of running the drugs out of an apartment on Grafton Avenue in Brooklyn where Candace Chestnut, who lived in the apartment, and others would allegedly process, package and store the cocaine and heroin, the DA’s office said. Bienvenido Castillo, 59, and his wife Celena Pichardo, 36, of 129 Cleveland St. in Brooklyn are charged with buying the drugs from Payano, Brown said.

The couple then repackaged the drugs in their apartment and stamped them with their own logos — “Much Better,” “Much Better #1” and “BC,” Brown said. The raid of both Brooklyn locations netted one kilo of cocaine, 600 grams of heroin, 300 glassine envelopes of heroin, 173 glassine envelopes of heroin marked “BC,” scales, coffee grinders, cell phones, cars and $27,000.

Jose Valentin, 26, of 285 Cozine Ave. and Kwesi Davenport, 24, of 517 Miller Ave. in Brooklyn were also arrested.

The six are charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance and face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years to life in prison if convicted.

Brown used a news conference announcing the bust as a bully pulpit for his fight against changes in the Rockefeller drug laws. The new drug laws would lower the stiffest penalty for a nonviolent drug crime to 8 1/2 years to life from the current 15 years to life. The laws would permit judges to send some nonviolent offenders to treatment instead of jail and would give them more discretion in handing out sentences.

Many reformers who oppose the laws view them as arcane and among the harshest in the country. The laws have been blamed for putting large numbers of people in state prisons for long sentences for minor drug offenses.

“This case highlights why it is that district attorneys like myself are fighting so hard to preserve our existing drug laws against efforts in Albany to significantly weaken them,” Brown said. “This city is today a much safer city then it was 10 years ago, and the main reason for that fact has been the vigorous enforcement of our existing drug laws.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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