COOPERSTOWN _ Three key players in a cocaine ring that flourished in Oneonta for five or more years are in jail and headed to prison, Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl said Tuesday.
The last of the three men, Mark A. Santiago, 31, of Bay Shore, pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance Monday in Otsego County Court.
Santiago, who was represented by Stamford attorney Paul Madison, had been scheduled for trial Monday, but as 83 prospective jurors gathered, he accepted a plea bargain for a prison sentence of 71/2 years.
"You have to do six-sevenths of your sentence, so for him that comes to almost six-and-a-half years," said Muehl.
Madison could not be reached by telephone at his office Tuesday afternoon.
Santiago is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 16 by Otsego County Judge Brian Burns.
Santiago, along with Luis V. Cabrera, 20, of Brooklyn, and Steven A. English, Jr., 24, of Brooklyn, was arrested last year and subsequently indicted on various drug charges, including enterprise corruption.
"By enterprise corruption, we mean that they were in an organized illegal business with a hierarchy," the district attorney said. "Cabrera was the boss and Santiago and English worked for him. Then, they had others working for them."
On July 22, Cabrera pleaded guilty to third-degree attempted criminal sale of controlled substance and third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 25 to 111/2 years in prison.
On the same date, English pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance. He is slated to be sentenced Aug. 28 to 71/2 years in prison, said Muehl.
"They were in business for years and the (Otsego County) Sheriff's Office did a great job with this investigation," said Muehl. Senior Investigator Michael Ten Eyck headed up the years-long probe.
However, even with the cocaine hierarchy behind bars, the local drug trade probably will continue to flourish.
"These sentences are the longest we've ever had for drug crimes, but I don't think that's going to stop it," Muehl said. "There's so much money in it, these guys figure the risk of going to prison is worth taking."
The buyers of the crack cocaine are mostly local Oneonta residents in their 30s and 40s, he said.
The DA said he was prepared to go to trial, but was pleased that he did not have to reveal confidential sources who helped with the investigation.