When Audrey Smith’s son was fatally shot in 1990, Juliet Anderson was there to console her.
Then an executive with Metropolitan Funeral Chapels, Anderson helped with the details of Ricky Smith’s burial so her friend could battle through her grief.
“She saw my children grow up and then, when Ricky was murdered, she was right there for me,” Smith said of Anderson, who was accused this month of knowingly using drug trafficking proceeds to build a large home in Orleans County.
Smith and other friends of Anderson say they think the federal criminal case will prove Anderson’s innocence. Anderson, 73, was known for years as an anti-violence activist, a woman who mourned frequently with the families of young victims of violence. She’s been active with community and civic groups, including the Urban League of Rochester.
Anderson retired this year as president of Metropolitan Funeral Chapels; she worked for 20 years at the funeral home at 109 West Ave. in Rochester.
Federal prosecutors allege that Anderson was part of a family drug ring. Authorities allege that her grandson, Kevin Lamont Anderson, was a ringleader and distributed cocaine and crack cocaine throughout Rochester since 1990.
Authorities do not accuse Juliet Anderson of distribution, but link her to cash payments for the purchase of a home in Holley, Orleans County. In all, more than $200,000 was paid in cash for the home, authorities allege. In the indictment, Anderson is connected to two payments, totaling almost $62,000, in 1994.
Anderson sometimes carried the cash in paper bags, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy Rodriguez alleged in recent hearings.
A federal indictment unsealed last week accused eight people of involvement in the drug ring. Another person, Willie Grimes, was arrested this week and has been added to the indictment.
Three of the men, including Kevin Lamont Anderson, are identified as Anderson’s grandsons; they are being held without bail.
Juliet Anderson was released on her own recognizance.
Juliet Anderson’s attorney, Paul MacAulay, who answered questions on her behalf, said this week that she will be able to prove her innocence.
For many who’d seen their sons or daughters slain, Metropolitan was a haven of solace during sorrowful times.
Now Anderson is accused of being part of the drug trade that is at the core of some of the city’s violence. “This has just been a nightmarish experience for her,” MacAulay said.
The police investigation started with the Rochester police in 2004 and involved wiretaps of people suspected of drug trafficking. This year, the case expanded into a possible drug conspiracy, and federal authorities became involved.
Monroe County District Attorney Mike Green said his office was heavily involved for more than a year, until prosecutors determined they likely had a federal drug conspiracy case.
To benefit from the proceeds from drug trafficking, even if not directly involved, is to live “off the blood of people who are dying in our streets,” Green said.