BALLSTON SPA — A downstate man who police believe was bringing pounds of cocaine to the region every month was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years in state prison, wrapping up prosecution of the major defendants in the biggest drug investigations in Saratoga County history.
Cleveland A. Francis, 45, of Mount Vernon, was sentenced for his plea to first-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, the state’s weightiest drug charge.
He was the cocaine supplier for Dennis E. Jones, who led a major cocaine and marijuana distribution ring from his property on Route 32 in the town of Saratoga, south of Schuylerville, that provided drugs to lower-level dealers around the Saratoga Springs and Glens Falls regions.
A months-long investigation by the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office, State Police and DEA culminated with raids that led to at least six arrests in early to mid-March and the seizure of 3 pounds of cocaine, 26 pounds of marijuana, more than $264,000 in cash, as well as illegal handguns and drug paraphernalia. Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo called the case the biggest drug investigation of his 35-year law enforcement career.
Francis was Jones’ main cocaine supplier, and was arrested in Stillwater with 7 ounces of cocaine and $10,000 in cash in early March, drugs police said he was delivering to Jones. Much of the cash was buried on Jones’ property.
“The Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department worked tirelessly to connect the dots in this investigation, resulting in the arrests and subsequent seizure of the drugs and illegal proceeds,” Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen said in a news release.
Francis will spend 5 years on parole after his release from prison.
Jones, 64, was sentenced to 14 years in prison and 5 years on parole for his guilty plea to criminal possession of a controlled substance. He also agreed to forfeit the cash and guns seized from his property.
Two other people were charged with felony drug counts, and two others with misdemeanor or violation drug and/or weapons possession charges.