A Yates County man, originally arrested about a year ago by Penn Yan police in Yates County, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on several drug charges and accused of threatening a witness.
A 13-count indictment charges James E. Sandford III, 28, of narcotics conspiracy, distribution of controlled substances within 1,000 feet of a school, distribution of controlled substances to persons under age 21, possession of various controlled substances with intent to distribute them, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, possession of a stolen firearm, possession of a firearm by a felon, and witness tampering, according to the office of U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul.
The drug charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $2 million fine.
Sandford is expected to be arraigned Tuesday on the charges in the indictment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marian W. Payson.
Sandford was initially arraigned on a criminal complaint on June 4, 2015.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Noto, who is handling the case, Sandford sold synthetic marijuana between July 2014 and March 24, 2015, around the village of Penn Yan.
Sandford, known by the nickname Malice, allegedly sold the designer drugs to school-age children near St. Michael’s School, a private elementary school.
On Feb. 22, 2015, Sandford also allegedly traded synthetic drugs with a minor in exchange for a stolen Savage .410 double-barrel shotgun, according to the indictment. At the time, Sandford had two prior felony convictions preventing him from legally owning a gun.
Sandford served a three-year sentence in state prison for aggravated criminal contempt in Dutchess County, for violation of a protection order. He was released in January 2013.
The witness tampering charge relates to an alleged incident on Sept. 10, 2015, in the exercise yard at the Yates County Jail where Sandford allegedly yelled to another inmate he believed was cooperating with police in the case against him: “I’m not going to be in jail long. I will see you on the outside you snitch.”
And on Sept. 16, 2015, on a Facebook page, Sandford allegedly posted a copy of a statement made to police by a witness against him with the caption: “And he say he not a snitch lmao.”
He was arrested in March 2015 by Penn Yan Police with 75 bags of synthetic marijuana and $2,316 in cash, unauthorized credit cards, coins, fireworks, and allegedly stolen jewelry, and electronics.
Sandford was initially charged by Penn Yan police with second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, second-degree harassment, and unlawful possession of fireworks.
Police said Sandford allegedly acted be aggressive towards officers and was uncooperative, which led to a charge of obstructing governmental administration.
The synthetic marijuana found by Penn Yan police was turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which led to the federal charges.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Sandford in June 2015, Penn Yan police learned from a confidential source that Sandford was allegedly buying designer drugs in Syracuse and selling them in Yates County.
On November 2014, the confidential source, working with Penn Yan police, bought Geeked Up and Green Giant brand synthetic marijuana from Sandford twice, according to the complaint.
In March 2015, a Penn Yan teen admitted to police that he stole a shotgun from his grandmother and traded it with Sandford for synthetic marijuana, according to the complaint.
In April 2015, Penn Yan police contacted Sandford’s mother, Lisa Standford, and asked about the stolen shotgun. She told them she saw a shotgun in a storage unit she rented. It was, in fact, the stolen gun, which she gave to police.