Pubdate: Mon, 11 Mar 2002
Source: Meriden Record-Journal, The (CT)
Copyright: 2002, The Record-Journal Publishing Co.
Author: Evan Goodenow, Record-Journal staff
Cited: Efficacy


SOUTHINGTON - The crackdown last month on two mid-level cocaine and
marijuana networks in Bristol, Southington and Thomaston was another
reminder that drugs are not just an inner-city problem.

"A lot of people don't think Southington has that going on, because
it's not like some cities where you can drive to certain parts of the
cities and see drug dealers standing out there," said Southington
Police Sgt. John Potter, a 24-year veteran and head of the detective
bureau since 1998. "Any drugs are readily available in Southington.
 From designer drugs right on down to heroin, crack cocaine, powder
cocaine, OxyContin pills, it's all available, just like it is in any
other community."

While a low-crime town, Southington's most infamous killings, the 1996
quadruple-homicide committed by Marco Camacho, were triggered by a
crack cocaine debt.

The suspects arrested during the Feb. 8 crackdown were not violent,
nor were they repeat offenders. Many held white-collar jobs and lived
without criminal records. There was an ex-college football star turned
bail bondsman, an insurance appraiser, a ski shop owner and a

"When you do a wiretap, you get people from all facets of life," said
Sgt. John Mucherino of the state police Statewide Narcotics Task Force
and the primary investigator on the case. The investigation, which
began in June 2001, was nicknamed Operation Toolen and Rivera. In
August, police seized large quantities of cocaine and marijuana and
$200,000 in cash in raids in Bristol and Southington.

Authorities accuse Southington resident Kevin Toolen, now imprisoned
at the Hartford Correctional Center, of running the marijuana network.
Miguel Rivera, of Thomaston, is believed to have been the main cocaine
distributor. Neither man was available for comment.

James Montana, the owner of the Montana Ski Shop in Southington, also
would not comment. Montana is accused of stashing more than a kilo of
marijuana at his business. Michael Longo, the insurance appraiser, is
accused of cocaine possession as well as conspiracy to sell it and
attempting to possess it.

"He's a good kid who made one dumb mistake." Longo's father told the
Record-Journal on the porch of his upscale Preli Court residence in

According to Mucherino, Robert Biestek, a football standout at
Meriden's Maloney High School and at Boston College, was recorded
through a wiretap discussing cocaine transactions. Biestek, a bail
bondsman who now resides in East Windsor, could lose his license if

Bethany St. Onge, an elementary school teacher in Wallingford who
lives in Bristol, could lose her teaching certificate, depending on a
recommendation from School Superintendent Joseph Cirasuolo to the
state Board of Education.

So why do people with a lot to lose get involved with drugs? Police
describe it simply. Either they want to get high or they want to make
money and think they can get away with it. Sometimes they go to
surrounding cities to buy drugs or sell them, and sometimes the
dealers come to them. But with its convenient location near bigger
cities like Meriden, Waterbury and Hartford, Southington is a nice,
quiet place for dealers to set up shop. And dealers with full-time
jobs are often less conspicuous.

"They're carrying on full-time jobs and they have money in their
pocket, so a lot of people don't pay attention to them," Potter said.
"If these people were not working at all and they had hundreds and
hundreds of dollars in their pocket, people have a tendency to get
more attention."

Adam Hurter isn't surprised about drug dealing in Southington. Hurter
is a spokesman for Efficacy, a Hartford-based organization seeking to
legalize drugs.

"We live in a money-driven society, and we live in a society in which
there is a very serious drug prohibition," Hurter said. "Because of
that drug prohibition, the massive, violent and lucrative black market
exists. In it, there's incredible profit potential, so all sorts of
people do take advantage of it."

Hurter believes the drug laws punish a disproportionate number of
blacks and Hispanics and drain taxpayers' wallets to pay for prisons
and interdiction efforts. Noting a reform effort in Arizona and
California that focuses on treatment of nonviolent addicts rather than
imprisoning them, Hurter said "we have to start medicalizing and
decriminalizing illegal drugs now and start looking at and discussing
a system of regulation and control."

In Southington, two detectives will now be committed solely to
narcotics interdiction, Potter said, but he conceded that there are
limits to enforcement. "As long as there's demand, there's going to be
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