The Heroin Cycle: Clinton County's Largest Drug Sweep

Published 02/20 2014 03:15PM

Updated 02/21 2014 08:30AM

The growing addiction to heroin is taking lives and splitting families apart.

The biggest drug sweep in Clinton county history put 59 people behind bars - overnight - this past December. Majority of those accused dealers and users are back on the street.

There’s so much more to the streets than what meets the naked eye.

“The streets are flooded with heroin in Plattsburgh," Scott Reome said. Father, son and Clinton County Jail inmate Scott Reome has been locked up for two months. "A lot of depression these last couple weeks," he said.

He's one of 59 arrested in the county's largest drug sweep, in December of 2013. "I was staying with my mother and father, 6:30 I looked out the window and there was ten cop cars.”

Reome was picked up along with dozens of others, accused of selling and possessing heroin.

"I fell off scaffolding four years ago - got put on opiates," he told me.

After going from doctor to doctor to support his prescription pain killer addiction, he says he turned to the streets.

I asked, "If I told you ten years ago that you would be injecting heroin into your arm, what would you say?" "I’d say you're nuts.”

But for nearly two years now -- Reome has let the drug take control. "It doesn't last more than two or three hours, and then you gotta do it again, and then again. If you don't have it in your system, you're feeling nauseas, cold sweats, just not right and then when you do have it you feel like a million bucks. I’m amazed how many people are out there using," Reome said.

He says tough love from family and no money for bail forced him into sobriety. "The two weeks of misery was rough. I look at it as a blessing to me, because I’m clean now."

If convicted – stripes, stiff beds and cement walls could be his home for up to 18 years. "My son is 14, to miss a year, or two or three would kill me."

Like Reome, 19 others from this major drug bust still sit here, awaiting their fate. Out of the 59 people who were arrested, 38 were released on bond.11 of those are being monitored by a parole officer.

Two suspects originally wanted in the drug round-up are still at large.

"23 of them had previous felony convictions, 17 of them for drug trafficking - so the cycle continues," Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said.

I asked Scott Reome, "Do you feel pretty confident that some people got arrested, then went to court, then went out and sold that night?” He said, "Absolutely, absolutely."

Wylie knows the system isn't perfect. But he also knows until convicted, a suspect can't always stay locked up.

"I think we do a great job assessing these cases. A lot of times the DA's association, the DA's throughout the state are accused of just wanting to put people behind bars, and that's not what we're - it is part of our job - but it's not what we're here for, especially when we're dealing with these drug cases," Wylie added.

The District Attorney says some are addicts - more in need of treatment than incarceration.

Others were strictly dealers, making a profit selling heroin on the street.

 New York State Police Captain Robert LaFountain admits the sweep didn't take the big players out of the game.

"They were the lower level, to mid level dealers, they weren't the higher level. I can say, and I’ve warned before, if you are dealing drugs, we will identify, investigate and apprehend you," Captain LaFountain said.

The preparation into this particular drug bust took more than a year. "We use multiple informants to do controlled buys with the same individual," Wylie said.

Even with 80 law enforcement officers from ten different agencies, the cost to tax payers was minimal.

Most of the drugs bought on the streets are paid for with money from each department. A lot of times, they never get that back - it's only when money is seized, like in this case, $20,000 was, or through the court process through fines.

"Although it does require a great deal of resources, the amount of financial or tax payer resources and human life by ignoring the problem is far greater," Captain LaFountain said.

In the last year alone, 27 people have overdosed and died in the North Country. 

 And that's why law enforcement officers say they will continue to seek out - and find - the drugs and dealers poisoning our community.

"I’ve heard some people say that we're losing the war on drugs, I don't believe that," LaFountain added.

But we want to tell you about another player in all of this - the defense attorneys’ who are now representing the 59 men and women caught in this sweep.

Kristopher Michaud represents four of them. After the bust his workload spiked.

But he says the likelihood of some of these inmates doing maximum sentences is slim. 

Here is list of where the 59 people who were arrested back in December are today:

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