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Officials: N.Y. fire lieutenant leader of drug ring; 20 arrested

Flanked by their lawyers, Joel Gamble, left, and Dominick Guardino are arraigned on drug charges. [ALLYSE PULLIAM/FOR THE TIMES HERALD-RECORD]
By Heather Yakin hyakin@th-record.com
Posted: Feb. 5, 2019 4:04 pm Updated: Feb. 5, 2019 4:07 pm

Officials say about 20 people had been arrested as of Tuesday morning in a drug ring run by a Middletown, N.Y., fire lieutenant, based out of the city’s central firehouse.

Law enforcement sources confirmed that Lt. Paul G. Smith, a career firefighter, was the leader of the drug ring. Smith and two other men, Garey Michel and Marquis Gamble, have been charged with operating as a major trafficker. They and the other defendants have been charged with second-degree conspiracy.

Smith has been employed by the city of Middletown Fire Department since March 2002 and in 2017 was paid $103,145.

Tuesday morning, officials confirmed, New York State Police and agents from the FBI and DEA staged raids in Orange and Rockland counties to make arrests.

In court early Tuesday afternoon, six of the defendants were arraigned on felony complaints.

As Michel was arraigned, Assistant District Attorney Neal Eriksen told Judge Craig Brown that the defendants conspired to sell oxycodone 30 milligram tablets “which were, in fact, fentanyl pills.”

Michel profited in excess of $70,000 in a six-month period, Eriksen said, outlining one of the statutory requirements of the major trafficker charge.

Smith and Gamble are expected to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon.

One of the men arraigned at midday was Dominick Guardino, chief of the Mechanicstown Fire Department. Eriksen told the judge that Guardino obtained pills on occasion while in his department-issued vehicle. Guardino faces one count of conspiracy.

Four other men, Joel Gamble, 44; Robert Dunham Jr.; George Thomas, 62; and Samuel Marino were also arraigned on conspiracy charges. Dunham also faces Class A felony drug sale charges. Their charges relate to distribution of cocaine.

Judge Brown set bail at $1 million cash or $3 million bond for Michel and Dunham; at $500,000 cash or $1.5 million bond for Joel Gamble, who has a prior felony drug conviction; at $100,000 cash or $300,000 bond for Marino; at $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond for Guardino; and at $25,000 cash or $75,000 bond for Thomas.

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