Former Watervliet cop pleads guilty to drug and gang involvement, heads to prison

Nicholas Pontore (AG Eric Schneiderman's Office)

WATERVLIET, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Former Watervliet officer Nicholas Pontore has pleaded guilty to his alleged involvement in a gang-run drug ring.

A judge sentenced Pontore to two years in state prison and two years of post-release supervision. His license was also suspended for six months.

During his court appearance, Pontore teared up as he read a brief statement where he apologized to his family for what he’s put them through.

“He’s felt remorse from day one even before he got arrested,” Pontore’s defense attorney Arthur Frost said. “He knew what he was doing and was terribly embarrassed by it, but that’s what addiction does to you.”

Pontore is accused of buying large quantities of drugs while on duty. According to authorities, he provided protection for a local gang called the “Young Gunnerz.”

The prosecutor said Pontore violated public trust, but the defense argued he had a serious drug addiction and should be getting treatment instead.

“Cocaine is a very insidious drug. There’s nobody that uses it just a little,” Frost said. “Once you’re hooked, you’re hooked and that was the unfortunate position he found himself in. He has stopped using it since he was arrested, to his credit, and I’m very proud of him for that.”

Daquan Murray, the leader of the drug ring, was sentenced to ten years in state prison and three years of post-release supervision on January 7.

Pontore walked out of the courtroom in handcuffs and is now in the custody of the New York State Police.



A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES GUILTY PLEA AND SENTENCING OF FORMER WATERVLIET POLICE OFFICER FOR ROLE IN MAJOR CAPITAL REGION DRUG RING:

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the guilty plea and sentencing of Nicholas Pontore, 30, formerly of East Greenbush, for his role in a major Capital Region drug ring that was operated by the Young Gunnerz, a violent drug gang that was based out of Troy. Pontore pleaded guilty to Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Fourth Degree before the Honorable Debra Young in Rensselaer County Court. Pontore was sentenced to 2 years in state prison and two years of post-release supervision.

Pontore, who was a Watervliet police officer at the time, was implicated for providing protection for the drug ring and purchasing cocaine from the Young Gunnerz on a nearly daily basis, sometimes while on-duty and in his marked police vehicle. Pontore resigned from the Watervliet police department on June 18, just days after the arrest of his primary contact with the Young Gunnerz.

“The Young Gunnerz were one of the biggest and most dangerous drug gangs in the Capital Region, and today another individual who supported their drug ring’s illegal activities is being held accountable,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Thanks to a close partnership with the State Police and local law enforcement authorities, this drug ring has been shut down and we are aggressively prosecuting those who were responsible for causing harm to so many throughout this region.”

“Today’s guilty plea is an example of State and local law enforcement successfully working together to bring drug criminals and their supporters to justice,” said New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico. “We will remain vigilant and continue to work closely with our State and local partners to break down dangerous drug operations and send those involved to prison.” The drug ring was busted in August 2015 via Operation Trojan Horse, a joint law enforcement effort led by Attorney General Schneiderman’s Organized Crime Task Force and state and local authorities. The drug ring was found to have trafficked drugs from New York City throughout the Capital Region.

The drug ring was one of the biggest providers of cocaine, heroin, and illegal prescription drugs in the Capital Region. Gang members and their associates allegedly purchased large quantities of drugs from an unknown supplier in the Bronx, and then brought the narcotics back to Troy for distribution throughout Albany County, Rensselaer County, Saratoga County, and elsewhere in and outside of New York State.

State investigators also seized three handguns during the investigation. As outlined in indictments, members of the Young Gunnerz allegedly drove to Albany on April 19 and fired several shots at rival gang members in an attempt to intimidate them.

Just last week, Daquan Murray, aka ‘Benji Got The Juice,’ the ringleader of the drug operation, was sentenced to ten years in state prison and three years of post-release supervision, the stiffest sentenced allowed by law.

The case against the Young Gunnerz gang has resulted in criminal charges against 21 defendants. To date, 16 have pleaded guilty and five have not yet entered a plea.

The charges against the remaining defendants are accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) has now taken down 25 large drug trafficking gangs, made more than 580 felony narcotics arrests, and seized more than $1.5 million and more than 2,000 pounds of illegal drugs.

The investigation was conducted by OCTF Investigator Jonathon Molik, Investigator William Charles, investigators from the New York State Police, and with the assistance of Albany Police Department, Troy Police Department, Watervliet Police Department, Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Office, and the Rensselaer and Albany County district attorneys.

The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General Michael Sharpe. Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff runs the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice is Kelly Donovan.

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