Nassau County police arrested a North Merrick couple — one former New York City Police Department officer and one teacher's assistant — at their home, near the Brookside school building on Tuesday, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash as well as opioid pills stashed away.
Kenneth Riggio, 59, now unemployed, was an NYPD officer for four years until 1986, Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said on Thursday. He had been on probation for an "extensive background in arrests," Ryder said, including drug possession, a DWI and assault.
Faith Riggio, 53, is a teacher's assistant in the North Merrick School District.
In a routine but unscheduled probation check, 1st Precinct Police, along with the Nassau County Probation Department, entered the 1285 Meadowbrook Road home on Tuesday — across the street from the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District's administrative building, the Brookside School, which also houses the district's alternative program, a private day-care center and a senior center.
Authorities found a number of drugs in "plain view," Ryder said, including more than 200 Oxycodone pills, numerous Xanax tablets, eight plastic bags containing what appeared to be cocaine and a switchblade knife.
In addition, $146,000 in cash and a $85,000 cashier's check — totaling $231,000 — were confiscated.
Further investigation uncovered a brown powder believed to be heroin.
The Riggios admitted ownership of the drugs, Ryder said.
Ryder noted that the North Merrick neighbors had called in a number of complaints about the couple. "From the complaints that we've seen, cars were coming and going all day long," Ryder said.
"There had been a lot of community complaints about these particular residents," County Executive Laura Curran said. "We need everyone in our communities to come forward and help us get these drug dealers and these drugs out of the hands of our kids and our families."
"That's exactly what we've been fighting for the last year and a half," Ryder added, "and this guy is across the street from a school — a daycare center — selling Oxies out of his residence."
In a statement, North Merrick Superintendent Cynthia Seniuk said that Faith, a Camp Avenue special education aide, has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
"Please know that prior to the hiring of all of our employees, a thorough background check is conducted by the district," Seniuk wrote. "Please be reassured that the safety and security of our students and staff are always our top priority."
On Wednesday, neighbor Jenna Fennelly said that while she did not have a "great neighborly relationship" with the Riggios, she was still surprised to see the police activity.
Kenneth Riggio was charged with three counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, one count of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, 11 counts of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
Faith Riggio was charged with one count of fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
Both were arraigned in First District Court in Hempstead on Thursday.