Home Dutchess County Several arrested in Dutchess after investigation into drugs and guns (PHOTO GALLERY)

Several arrested in Dutchess after investigation into drugs and guns (PHOTO GALLERY)

Several arrested in Dutchess after investigation into drugs and guns (PHOTO GALLERY)
Counterfeit Oxycodone seized in a widespread sweep.

PUCKHKEEPSIE After an investigation that started in April 2022, state troopers arrested a number of members of a gun and drug trafficking network with its headquarters in Dutchess on Tuesday night and early on Wednesday morning. Judge Edward McLoughlin of Dutchess County Court opened two sealed indictments on Wednesday morning, naming the arrested. Four people were charged with 154 offenses pertaining to the sale of assault rifles and ghost firearms. Seven defendants were accused in a different 63-count indictment of trafficking thousands of fentanyl-laced counterfeit oxycodone pills. Both indictments contained names for a number of the individuals.

During a press conference held on Wednesday afternoon at New York State Police Troop K Headquarters in Salt Point, New York State Attorney General Letitia Tish James revealed that the arrests resulted in the recovery of 31 firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, approximately 5,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl, with a street value of approximately $150,000, and approximately $55,000 in cash. The tenth was apprehended in Florida and is scheduled to be extradited to New York.

Attorney General James stated that the people detained today were part of a hazardous network that supplied fentanyl to communities around New York and trafficked in undetectable ghost weapons. Attorney General James said, “My office’s partnerships with state and local law enforcement made this operation possible.” The Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the Special Investigations Unit Hudson Valley (SIU-HV) and Troop K Violent Gang and Narcotics Enforcement Team (K-VGNET) of the New York State Police (NYSP) jointly conducted an eighteen-month investigation that culminated in the arraignments. The Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office, the Dutchess County Drug Task Force, and the City of Poughkeepsie police all provided support to the state authorities.

The 34-year-old inhabitant of the Town of Poughkeepsie, Muayad Junior Qader, was the focus of the April 2022 investigation. Qader allegedly operated a gun and drug sales operation out of the Valero gas station on Route 55, which is located across from Arlington High School in LaGrange. Qader was employed at the station, which his uncle runs. Along with his spouse and kids, he resides on Janet Drive in the Town of Poughkeepsie, and from there he is also accused of distributing drugs. Throughout the course of the investigation, the defendants and their accomplices repeatedly used cryptic and coded language to try to hide their illegal activities. For example, they would refer to ghost guns as “ghosties” and call the fake oxycodone pills that contained fentanyl “erks,” “urks,” and “percs.”

The initial probe into the illegal firearms focused on Qader and the three other people who were charged; Jason Knapp, 43, of Verbank, Joseph Joey Silverman, 30, of Port St. Lucie, Florida, and Louis Gonzalez, 53, of LaGrange, are accused of providing Qader with weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Following an inquiry into gun trafficking, the following was found:

  • 31 firearms, including 14 un-serialized AR-style ghost gun rifles,
  • two serialized non-compliant AR-style rifles,
  • a defaced AR-style rifle,
  • a defaced magazine-fed shotgun,
  • a Polymer-80 ghost gun pistol,
  • and a defaced Glock-21 pistol.
  • An AR-style ghost gun upper receiver and,
  • an AR-style ghost gun lower receiver.
  • 19 high-capacity magazines.
  • Hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

The 154-count indictment for gun trafficking includes counts for a variety of felonies related to firearms, such as the 25-year prison sentence for felonies related to the sale of firearms, which Qader and Knapp are accused of committing. It also includes counts for felonies related to criminal possession of weapons and conspiracy to commit those felonies.

The drug investigative team

Attorney General James stated that starting in January 2023, investigators discovered Qader’s drug trafficking scheme, in which he obtained fake oxycodone tablets that contained fentanyl from multiple people in Dutchess County. The attorney general claimed that although the pills’ coloring and stamping made them look like prescription oxycodone, they actually included fentanyl, which put users in serious risk. The inquiry unveiled a network of drug trafficking in which 32-year-old Curtis Holland of Poughkeepsie provided tablets to 27-year-old Isaiah Atkins of Poughkeepsie, who in turn supplied 29-year-old Aaron Steppe of Poughkeepsie, Qader’s main supplier. Meeting Qader at the Valero station, Steppe would transfer the drugs in his car with either his 24-year-old girlfriend, Angel Williams, or his 34-year-old roommate, Christopher Evans of Poughkeepsie. The inquiry also showed that Qader received fake oxycodone tablets laced with fentanyl from 39-year-old LaGrange resident Stephen Gary at the Valero Gas Station.

Following an examination into the drug trafficking network, the following was found:

  • Approximately 5,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl, with an approximate street value of $150,000.
  • Drug paraphernalia, including bags and scales, used to package and measure narcotics.
  • Approximately $55,000 in cash.

Judge McLoughlin unsealed the 63-count indictment against drug traffickers on Wednesday. It includes counts for a variety of felonies related to drug offenses, such as felony charges of criminal sale of a controlled substance against Qader, Steppe, Atkins, and Gary, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, as well as various counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit those crimes.

The following are the subjects whom Judge McLoughlin arraigned on Wednesday morning:

  • Christopher Evans Released to probation on electronic monitoring because no charges were bail-eligible.
  • Angel Williams Released to probation on electronic monitoring because no charges were bail-eligible.
  • Aaron Steppe Released to probation on electronic monitoring because no charges were bail-eligible.
  • Luis Gonzales Remanded to the Dutchess County Jail without bail.
  • Isaiah Atkins Released to probation on electronic monitoring because no charges were bail-eligible.
  • Stephen Gary Released to probation on electronic monitoring because no charges were bail-eligible.
  • Jason Knapp Remanded to the Dutchess County Jail without bail.

During Steppe’s arraignment, Judge McLoughlin voiced his dissatisfaction with the bail reform, stating, “It’s astonishing that this court is not allowed to set bail on you, despite the 39-count indictment.” Jason Knapp was remanded without bail by McLoughlin due to the overwhelming nature of the allegations. Knapp was arraigned on 90 charges, several of which are felonies related to the illicit sale of firearms.

All of the defendants are facing charges ranging from criminal sale of a firearm to felony conspiracy. On March 1, 2024, all of the accused are expected back in Dutchess County Court.


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