July 1, 2008
Section: B: Local
Edition: Schenectady/Albany; Final
Page: B3

Seven more plead in drug trafficking


Gazette Reporter

More than half of those indicted in the Kerry Kirkem-Oscar Mora drug ring have now admitted involvement, with seven more accepting plea deals on Monday. Those accepting deals Monday are to receive sentences ranging from probation to seven years in state prison. Drug courier Steven Torres, 22, is to receive the longest term out of Monday's pleas. He pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, admitting that on March 12 he possessed cocaine. Five years of his sentence comes from his drug ring plea. The other two come from a previous drug court case. Torres had been participating in the county drug court, a treatment program for nonviolent drug offenders, while moving drugs for the Kirkem-Mora operation. If Torres was not committed to the spirit of the program, he apparently was committed to attending. He was caught on wiretaps talking to Kirkem, making sure he would be back from a trip to their supplier in time for a morning appearance in drug court. Under routine questioning by Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago prior to the plea, Torres said he was addicted to marijuana, cocaine and heroin. He was represented by attorney Michael Mansion. Monday's pleas mean 14 defendants have taken plea deals out of the original 24 indicted. Of the 10 remaining, two have yet to be apprehended -- Wilfredo Cordero and Maximo Doe. Cases against Lisa Kaczmarek, wife of former Schenectady police chief Greg Kaczmarek, and her son Miles Smith are among those pending. Lisa Kaczmarek was briefly mentioned in court Monday, during the plea of Kareem Reid. Both she and Reid were among 18 defendants named under the top conspiracy count. Drago read each name as Reid pleaded guilty to a lesser count of third-degree conspiracy. Reid admitted to conspiring with one or more of the group, though he did not say whom. The 26-year-old Reid is to receive one year in jail. Also pleading guilty Monday was Todd Rodriguez, a man who had filed a precursor to a potential lawsuit against the city alleging false arrest in a previous drug case. Rodriguez, 21, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, heroin. He is to receive 3 1/2 years in state prison. He had been accused, prior to the current indictment, of making a hand-to-hand sale of heroin just after 2 p.m. Aug. 21 in front of 1044 University Place. It was the same address that would later be cited as one of five sale spots for the drug ring and the same house to which Rodriguez would be linked. The August charges, however, were quickly dismissed after it was learned that he was in the Warren County jail at the time cited in documents. City officials have rejected Rodriguez's claim, saying he had no case before and less of a case after his most recent arrest. OTHER PLEAS The others taking pleas Monday were Ronald Hughes, Leah Armenia, Bernard Ryan and Christopher Toogood. Hughes, 25, of Huron Court, pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. He is to get 3 1/2 years. His longtime girlfriend, Misty Gallo, entered her own plea Friday, admitting to second-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. She is to receive five years in prison. While police couldn't find Hughes after their initial sweep in May, he was taken into custody visiting Gallo at the Schenectady County jail. He apparently did not know he was being sought. Armenia, 25, of Union Street, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree conspiracy. She was accused of operating a stash house for the ring. She is to receive 60 days of weekends in jail. Ryan, 47, of Clement Road, pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree attempted criminal possession of a controlled substance. He is to receive probation. Ryan admitted he was in recovery from a heroin addiction. He stumbled over his age, when asked by Drago. "Sorry, I'm nervous," Ryan said. Toogood, 24, of Union Street, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree criminal nuisance, a felony. He admitted to a heroin addiction and trading use of his apartment by the ring for free drugs. He was expected to receive 60 days in jail and to soon enter a rehab program. Toogood was already looking ahead, asking his attorney Randall Kehoe about the implications of his plea on his right to vote, something felons can't do without a court order. Drago indicated she would not consider such an order at sentencing, but might consider it later, depending on how he does on probation. "In other words," she said, "that's something you need to earn."

Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122 or scook@dailygazette.net.

Copyright (c) 2008 The Daily Gazette Co. All Rights Reserved.

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