An East End Drug Task Foce raid at a Merritts Pond Road home yesterday afternoon led to the arrest of three men on drug charges, Riverhead Police said.
Police said the task force investigation was in response to “numerous complaints” about drug activity at 137 Merritts Pond Road in Riverhead. The investigation culminated in the execution of a search warrant yesterday at 5:16 p.m.
As police approached the residence, Justin C. Benkov, who was in a vehicle parked in the driveway of the residence, attempted reverse his vehicle in the direction of the police officers in an attempt to escape, according to a police press release.
His passengers, Michael T. Barry and Bryant B. Smith fled from the vehicle and were apprehended by officers, according to the police report.
Police said they located drugs in both the residence and the vehicle. Benkov was found to be in possession of at least one-half ounce of cocaine with the intent to sell, as well as 13 SubOxone strips. Barry and Smith were each found to be in possession of at least 25 grams of marijuana.
Benkov, 29, of Riverhead was charged with: criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, a class B felony; criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, a class A misdemeanor; criminally using drug paraphernalia in the second degree, a class A misdemeanor; and reckless endangerment in the second degree, a class A misdemeanor.
Barry, 28, of Riverhead, and Smith, 36, of Rocky Point, were each charged with criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree, a class B misdemeanor.
All three men were transported to Riverhead Police Headquarters.
They were arraigned before Justice Richard Ehlers this morning at Riverhead Justice Court. Bail was set for Barry at $2,500 and Nolan at $5,000. Benkov was held without bail.
A woman in the courtroom who identified herself as Benkov’s girlfriend tearfully watched as officers pushed him out of the room in a wheelchair. She said Benkov is paralyzed from the waist down after sustaining injuries from gunfire while attempting to rob a house in East Islip in 2011.
“Justin was doing really good,” she said quietly. “He’s made mistakes in the past, but he’s a human being. He did his time, he’s trying to be a good father to his kids, and he was trying to start over.”
Benkov is the father of two young children, she said.
He was also arrested in 2012 on drugs and weapons charges.
Editor’s note: A criminal charge is an accusation. By law, a person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
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