CAPITAL REGION Seized drug money distributed $1.7M to 5 agencies in marijuana trafficking bust BY JUSTIN MASON Gazette Reporter Reach Gazette reporter Justin Mason at 395-3113 or email@example.com.
Federal prosecutors doled out more than $1.7 million seized during a 2004 marijuana raid to the law enforcement agencies that aided during the bust. On his first official day in office Monday morning, acting U.S. District Attorney Andrew T. Baxter announced the distribution of the drug money, which was seized from a concealed safe at the Glen residence of Joseph Briere, a nowconvicted marijuana trafficker who owned property in both Montgomery and Schenectady counties. State police, who conducted the initial raid in November 2004, were allotted more than $1 million from the seized funds. The Schenectady Police Department netted the second greatest amount with about $75,000, while the Albany Police Department was awarded $54,000. The Amsterdam Police Department was given $43,000, while the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Offi ce received $21,000. “It’s going to allow us to buy some equipment we don’t have already, it’s going to update what we have,” Amsterdam Detective Lt. Thomas DiMezza told CBS6 Albany, the Gazette’s news gathering partner. “We have to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, because they are always thinking of staying one step ahead of us.” The investigation was a collaborative effort between the state police, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and local law enforcement agencies. Their target was a massive hydroponic — high tech indoor cultivation — marijuana smuggling operation that ran drugs from the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation straddling the Canadian border to a distribution network in the Capital Region. Federal prosecutors said Briere — identifi ed as “the Wolf” in federal court documents — conspired with several others to distribute more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana between May 2003 and November 2004, when authorities raided his home. During the raid, investigators found $215,000 hidden in a Chevy Impala stowed in Briere’s barn and another $2 million inside a safe concealed behind a kitchen wall in his residence, as well as $41,000 tucked elsewhere on the property. Also recovered were seven rifl es and more than 200 pounds of highgrade marijuana. Baxter said Briere was among 18 convictions stemming from the investigation, with another case pending. Briere pleaded guilty to a two-count felony charge and was sentenced to serve three years in federal prison; he forfeited all of the seized money as part of his plea agreement with prosecutors. Montgomery County District Attorney James “Jed” Conboy said his office will use the cash to fund a variety of anti-drug initiatives. He said these initiatives can range from helping to pay police overtime to using the money for investigative purchases. “We try to put it to good use and fight the war on drugs with the drug dealers’ own money,” he said.