Details emerge in Pittsfield beating, torture of man accused of stealing pot
PITTSFIELD — With the barrel of a handgun in his mouth, the man accused of stealing up to 20 pounds of pot was told he had until the count of five to reveal where the drugs were.
The man, who was bound and blindfolded, recounted for police how he was beaten and tortured by his captors one evening in late January in a macabre scheme to recover the stolen marijuana.
During the ordeal in a Pittsfield basement, the armed group of men struck him with a baseball bat, threatened him with automatic weapons, and told him they would kill his son.
New details about his abduction and assault, and that of a second man, have emerged in court documents obtained by The Eagle.
Five people have been arrested in connection with the allegations on charges including kidnapping, assault with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
The 48-page affidavit also sheds light on a complex marijuana delivery system in the area and the measures allegedly taken to ensure those deliveries are not tampered with.
"It's no joke; it's a serious thing," the man told police regarding the marijuana operation. "I almost lost my life."
He told police he'd been involved with the area marijuana business for about six months prior to his Jan. 26 assault and had participated in about six deliveries in that time.
He told police on days when packages of marijuana are to be delivered, he'd get a call and told where the package would be delivered.
The pickup person is instructed to wait at the location until the package arrives and pick it up when its dropped off.
The delivery and pickup is watched by a lookout, referred to as the "eye in the sky," he told police.
Once the pickup is observed by the lookout, another call is received within 20 minutes with more instructions, informing the carrier of a drop-off location.
After that drop-off is made, the carrier gets another call and given another location where they can pick up their payment or, "prize money," which is usually about $1,000. The packages are delivered via UPS and run between 10 and 20 pounds.
He told police a delivery was expected on Jan. 25, but it was delivered three days early — Jan. 22.
Two packages were delivered, one of which he took and left the other behind, hoping to make some money by selling it off.
He told police he assumed a lookout spotted him removing one of the packages, which he estimated at 15 to 20 pounds, with a street value of about $50,000.
He kept about a pound and stored the remainder at the home of a friend, who also got caught up in the plot.
Plot is hatched
On Jan. 23, Jay Strezynski, 25, of Lee won about $475 playing poker and wanted to buy some marijuana with part of his winnings, according to the affidavit.
The victim's friend, who was one of the players, told Strezynski he could get some for him at a good price.
That friend, Victim 2, contacted Strezynski on Jan. 25 to see if he was still interested and offered to sell him 1/8 of an ounce to try it.
Strezynski bought a full ounce and then contacted Emanuel "Manny" Diaz, 23, of Lee, knowing he was also looking for marijuana.
Diaz asked Strezynski to send him a picture of the marijuana and said he would be interested in buying some and made arrangements to meet on Jan. 26 for a deal to buy a pound from the victims.
Victim 2 told police he was unaware the marijuana was stolen and he expected to be paid $200 for his role in setting up the exchange.
He also told police he, "did not realize who or what he was getting involved with."
Essentially, Victim 2 told police, they were buying back their own marijuana.
Ambush in Lee
The night of the abduction, Victim 2 contacted Strezynski and told him he was coming into Lee with the pound of marijuana.
Diaz told Strezynski to come to his house to get the money for the deal and arrangements were made with Victim 2 to meet after the money was picked up.
When Strezynski arrived at Diaz's Ferncliff Street home, he said there were approximately eight men wearing hooded sweatshirts, dark clothing and gloves, some of whom had guns.
One of the armed men told Strezynski the marijuana was stolen from him and they were going to lure the men to the three corners area in Lee.
Strezynski was instructed to tell Victim 2 to be there in 20 minutes, so the group could arrive ahead of them.
Strezynski did not know all of the people involved, but he did identify Dashaan Golden, 22, who also lives in the same building as Diaz, and Matthew Rivera, 22, of Lee, as being present during the planning.
When the victims arrived at the predetermined spot, they were confronted by the group.
Victim 2 was attacked from behind and during a brief struggle a handgun allegedly was fired, though no one was hit. He fled to a home on Woodland Road, where he contacted police.
Victim 1 was grabbed and forced at gunpoint into a vehicle and allegedly driven to a duplex on Stratford Avenue in Pittsfield.
Strezynski returned back to Lee where Diaz was waiting and was told to wait there until they were contacted by the group that went to Pittsfield that it was OK to leave.
There, Diaz suggested the group delete text messages from their phones and post Facebook statuses in an effort to establish alibis.
A call for help
Victim 1 said when they arrived at Stratford Avenue, he was forced out of the vehicle and managed to briefly get away, but he was tackled by one of the men, causing a wad of about $1,800 in cash to fall from his pocket.
Police later found the money in the home's yard — precisely where Victim 1 said he'd lost it as he yelled to a neighbor for help and to call police.
During the struggle to get him into the house, Victim 1 grabbed a nearby wire fence and cut his hand in the process. He told police he'd hoped to leave blood and DNA evidence behind.
One of the men spoke to that neighbor, told them Victim 1 was drunk and not to bother contacting police, according to the affidavit.
But the neighbor did, in fact, call the police.
When police arrived, they met Kamara Pellot, 24, who was outside walking her dog.
Pellot, who allegedly allowed the group access to her basement to detain and torture Victim 1, redirected police to a different address when they asked about the reports of a disturbance.
Victim 1 was brought into the duplex and thrown down a flight of stairs into the basement, where he said he was hit with guns, punched, kicked, hit with broken pieces of cement and an aluminum baseball bat.
He said one man held a gun in his mouth and another pointed a rifle at his head. He told police at least two of the men were armed with assault-style automatic rifles.
The men allegedly threatened Victim 1's life and that of his son, telling him his child's body would be hung from a rooftop in New York City.
He told police he spit more blood onto the floor of the basement in hopes of leaving more trace evidence.
He was held in the basement for hours until one of the men said he would count down from 5 to 1 and kill him unless he told them where the marijuana was.
At that point, he told them the drugs were stored at Victim 2's home.
He was kept in custody until the group received word the marijuana was where it was supposed to be and had been recovered.
Once the drugs had been recovered, Victim 1 said he was permitted to clean himself up at the kitchen sink and was blindfolded and bound and dropped off at his mother's workplace in Pittsfield.
Both victims required hospitalization for their injuries.
Strezynski, Golden, Pellot, Diaz and Rivera have all been arraigned on multiple charges including kidnapping, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
Strezynski was ordered held on $10,000 bail; the others have been released on lower bails of various amounts.
Diaz was arraigned in Berkshire Superior Court on Tuesday on his charges. The other co-defendants will also likely have their cases transferred to Superior Court, but no specific date has been determined.
Contact Bob Dun at 413-496-6249.