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East Side grandmother admits running cocaine ring with family members

Bit by bit, Theresa Anderson’s family business is being dismantled.

Her daughter pleaded guilty earlier this year, and her granddaughter followed suit Wednesday.

And if all goes as prosecutors plan, four more members of the “Anderson Drug Trafficking Organization” – her husband, a son and two other daughters – may soon join the list of convicted drug dealers.

Anderson, the 56-year-old matriarch of the family, stood in a downtown courtroom Thursday and acknowledged her role in leading a cocaine ring that police say controlled several city blocks in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood.

Neighbors said the family’s drug dealing was one of the reasons why St. John Kanty School on Swinburne Street, a neighborhood institution, closed several years ago.

“Her business operated 24-7, we were told by confidential informants,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa M. Marangola said of the around-the-clock nature of her drug enterprise.

Marangola detailed for the court Anderson’s leadership role in the conspiracy, including her purchases of homes used to sell the drugs and her purchases of the cocaine base she later admitted selling.

She pleaded guilty to distributing cocaine base and now faces between 14 and 17 years in prison.

“Drugs, they take hold of you,” said Robert Ross Fogg, Anderson’s defense lawyer. “They take your soul, and they take your mind.”

Fogg said his client decided to take a plea deal in an effort to make things easier for the other family members facing drug charges.

“For the sake of her children and her grandchildren, she took the plea,” he said.

The beginning of the end for Anderson and her family came in February 2012 when seven SWAT teams raided 15 drug houses owned by her and relatives.

Prosecutors said the drug ring thrived for more than a decade because she employed family members who would never turn her in. They also pointed to her reliance on paid lookouts strategically located in many of the houses her family owned.

Anderson is not the first family member to plead guilty. One of her daughters, Wymiko Anderson, took a plea deal in February, and her granddaughter, Tajia Anderson, pleaded guilty Wednesday.

Four more family members, according to court records, are scheduled for plea hearings in the next two weeks. They are Melvin Calhoun, her husband; Dion Anderson, a son; and Anquensha and Toshia Hodge, two other daughters.

Steven Butler, a boyfriend of one of the daughters, also took a plea deal this year. He faces up to 57 months in prison. Another boyfriend, Leo Mellerson, also is expected to take a plea deal.

In addition to facing jail time, the family may lose its property. All 15 homes have been seized by the government.

“Just as Theresa Anderson and her family targeted and held a city neighborhood hostage, our office, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to target any individual or groups of individuals who would consider similar behavior,” U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara will sentence Anderson Oct. 8.