Drug, animal abuse charges lodged in Gloversville, Amsterdam

A copy of a photo taken by the Gloversville Police Department of a Pit Bull puppy with its ears “docked” in a procedure that police allege was conducted illegally is shown. The dog’s ears were severely infected and were tied together with fishing line. The dog was evaluated by the Gloversville animal control officer and taken to receive veterinary care. The dog is receiving foster care through the Regional Animal Shelter and is expected to make a full recovery. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

AMSTERDAM — A confidential tip to the Gloversville Police Department led the agency and the Amsterdam Police Department to arrest three individuals on drug related charges and a fourth on a charge of animal cruelty on Tuesday.

Harold Nelson, 27, of New Hartford, was charged with third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a class B felony; resisting arrest; seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a class A misdemeanor; and aggravated unlicensed operation.

James Costanzo, 38, of Fultonville, was charged with two counts of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a class A misdemeanor, unlawful possession of marijuana and resisting arrest.

Justine A. Street, 26, of 1351 Route 5S, was charged with two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a class B felony; fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a class C felony; third-degree criminal possession of marijuana, a class E felony, and second-degree criminal use of drug paraphernalia, a class A misdemeanor.

Ashley Lewis, 31, of Verona, was charged with animal cruelty.

The Gloversville Police Department said they received a confidential tip on Tuesday, alerting members of the patrol and detective divisions to several individuals who were reportedly transporting narcotics to the city in a vehicle.

Police acted on the tip, conducting surveillance on a Gloversville residence when detectives observed a vehicle commit a traffic infraction.

Officers stopped the vehicle, identifying Nelson, who had a suspended driver’s license, as the driver. Also in the vehicle at the time were Costanzo and Lewis.

Police say Costanzo fled the vehicle on foot and was apprehended following a brief foot pursuit. He was subsequently found to be in possession of Suboxone, morphine and a small amount of marijuana. Additionally, three separate warrants for Costanzo’s arrest had been issued by Gloversville City Court, Johnstown City Court and Fulton County Court.

As officers attempted to take Nelson into custody, police say he also fled on foot and was apprehended following a brief foot pursuit. Once apprehended, police say Nelson placed his hand down his pants and refused several commands to remove it. Officers deployed a Taser to take him into custody.

Nelson was found to have approximately 20 grams of crack cocaine and 50 bags of heroin packaged for sale, three grams of loose heroin, Suboxone and morphine pills on his person.

Once Nelson and Costanzo were in custody, officers secured the vehicle and discovered a pit bull puppy with its ears tied together with fishing line and severely infected from an apparent “docking” procedure that police say was performed illegally and not under veterinary care.

The Gloversville animal control officer was called to the scene and transported the dog to receive veterinary care.

Police say the dog belonged to Lewis, who was taken into custody and charged with cruelty to animals for failing to provide the dog with necessary medical care.

The dog is receiving foster care through the Regional Animal Shelter and is expected to make a full recovery.

While investigating, officers found evidence connecting the suspects to Amsterdam, including room keys from the Knights Inn, and contacted Amsterdam police.

Amsterdam detectives responded to the hotel and interviewed Street, the sole occupant of the room who was listed as the occupant of record with the hotel.

Street subsequently consented to a search of the room and was taken into custody when police discovered 0.9 ounces of heroin, 2.2 ounces of crack cocaine, 8.4 ounces of marijuana, eight ecstasy pills, a digital scale and packaging materials.

Nelson, Costanzo and Lewis were arraigned in Gloversville City Court before Judge Traci DiMezza on Tuesday. Nelson and Costanzo were remanded to the Fulton County Correctional Facility without bail. Lewis was remanded to the county jail on $10,000 cash bail or $35,000 bond.

Street was arraigned in Amsterdam City Court before Judge Lisa Lorman on Tuesday and remanded to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility on $50,000 cash bail or $100,000 bond.

During an inter-agency press conference at the Amsterdam Police Department on Wednesday, Lt. Brad Schaffer of the Gloversville Police Department said Nelson and Costanzo were remanded to the Fulton County jail without bail based on their prior criminal histories, adding that he could not discuss the specifics of their histories.

Schaffer noted that the vehicle driven during the incident has been impounded and Gloversville police will be working with their counterparts at the New York National Guard Counterdrug Task Force to process the vehicle today.

Gloversville Det. Rick Richardson said the point of origin for the drugs is still under investigation, but it is believed that the individuals arrested came to the area for the purpose of trafficking drugs.

“A lot of times with these investigations you try to climb the ladder so to speak, we feel that we have significant players here that we’ve arrested. The origin of where this stuff ultimately came from is unknown,” said Richardson. “They’re not from our area.”

“They’re here for one reason only, to sell drugs,” Gloversville Police Chief Marc Porter added.

Schaffer said Tuesday’s investigation and arrests unfolded over the course of hours, as Gloversville police acted on the tip they received on the vehicle that was said to be traveling from Amsterdam to Gloversville for the purpose of selling narcotics and detectives contacted Amsterdam police immediately upon discovery of the evidence linking the suspects to the city.

“Law enforcement agencies are working together to combat drugs in the community,” Schaffer said. “We value that relationship and we’re working together to rid the community of drugs.”

“Investigations often cross jurisdictional lines as suspects attempt to hide their identities and evade capture. The continued partnership between both agencies ensured that these dangerous drugs were seized before they could reach the streets of both communities,” Amsterdam Det. Joseph Spencer added.

Porter said the quantity of narcotics seized was significant, pointing to the importance of their removal from the streets and the arrests of those allegedly involved in the sale of the illegal drugs.

“This has a significant impact on the safety of our community to be able to remove this type of product from our streets and prevent it from being sold and contributing to the epidemic that we see every day,” Porter said. “It’s a win for the communities both in Gloversville and Amsterdam and probably all points in between.”

By Patricia Older

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