Authorities say one of the largest drug seizures in recent history took place in the city of Auburn, after an 18 month investigation. As result, more than a dozen people face charges across the state and U.S. as hundreds of thousands of pills, and several pounds of various narcotics were uncovered.
The investigation included most of Central New York, the City of Auburn, and the state of California.
On Monday, members of the Finger Lakes Drug Task Force, Auburn Police Department, New York State Police, Cayuga County Sheriff’s Office, US Marshal Service, US Army National Guard Counter Drug, and Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office arrested multiple people who were part of that broad drug investigation.
Police say the investigation began in April 2021. The leaders of the organization were Nicholas Neville and Merritt Fletcher IV. Both Neville and Fletcher are known gang members of the “Gorilla Stone Nation.”
In the months following Finger Lakes Drug Task Force members developed the case against Neville and Fletcher by using various investigative techniques and practices. During the investigation, it was found that Neville and Fletcher were being resupplied with cocaine from New York City and Rochester. It was also found that the drug organization was also being supplied with pressed blue fentanyl pills and methamphetamine from California.
On January 11 search warrants were executed by members of the Finger Lakes Drug Task Force, Auburn Police Department, Cayuga County Sheriff’s, New York State Police, and Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office. During the execution of the search warrants, multiple specialized units were utilized. The units were as follows: Auburn Police ERT, Cayuga County Sheriff’s ERT, New York State Police SWAT, New York State Police Violent Gang Narcotic Enforcement Team from C, D, and E Troop, Cayuga County Sheriff’s K- 9 Unit, New York State Police K- 9 Units, and US Army National Guard Counter Drug. The locations of these search warrants ranged from the City of Auburn to the City of Cortland.
Upon the execution of the search warrants on January 13, 2022, approximately 2.6 kilos of cocaine, 1.5 lbs of methamphetamine, over 1 lb of pressed blue fentanyl blues (approximately 7,000 pills), two defaced handguns, over $20,000 in US Currency, $15,000 in jewelry, a kilo hydraulic press, and multiple cutting agents were located and seized.
On April 6, 2022, in furtherance of the investigation, Finger Lakes Drug Task Force executed a search warrant on a storage locker at a storage locker facility in the City of Syracuse. Upon executing the search warrant at the storage facility, approximately 70,000 pressed blue fentanyl pills were seized. Following this portion of the investigation, two more handguns were also located and seized.
Also on April 6, 2022, across the country DEA Bakersfield, California executed search warrants that were associated with this case. DEA Bakersfield seized 103,000 pressed blue fentanyl pills, 133 grams of fentanyl, 30 grams of cocaine, 17 firearms, and $33,000.
Due to New York State’s new bail reform and discovery laws along the magnitude of the case, Task Force members were forced to wait to charge all suspects involved. After months of work by the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office preparing for the case, they produced over a ten-person indictment along with eight arrest warrants resulting in Monday’s arrests.
Altogether, 17 people were arrested following the investigation.
Fletcher, Neville, and Caitlyn Jacobs face the most-serious charges of first-degree criminal possession of a narcotic drug and criminal possession of a weapon. A number of others were charged with conspiracy and possession.