Investigation leads to indictment of 25 individuals In Erie County Court; seizures of over $500,000 in heroin, cocaine
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and the New York State Police, the Buffalo Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Department of Homeland Security and the Niagara County Drug Task Force today announced first degree narcotics possession and sale, conspiracy to distribute and other charges have been filed against 25 individuals accused of taking part in a drug distribution network that funneled heroin from New York City and Philadelphia to Buffalo and Western New York.
"Today, my office, with our partners in law enforcement, shut down a major drug pipeline into Western New York that was a top supplier of fentanyl-laced heroin and other drugs," Schneiderman said. "This dangerous and potent variant of heroin is killing people across our state, and I am pleased that we have cut off this supply and charged 25 individuals for their alleged roles."
"The alleged crimes suggest that the suspects had absolutely no regard for the damage these narcotics were inflicting on our communities," New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico said. "We will continue to work with our partners to target those trafficking drugs in our neighborhoods, shut their illegal operations down and put them behind bars."
"Gang violence and drug trafficking are both public health and public safety threats," said Special Agent in Charge James Hunt, U.S. DEA, New York division. "Wherever the Ramos organization allegedly sold heroin and cocaine, they left behind fear, intimidation and addiction in their wake. Law enforcement pooled resources to shut this operation down and identify all sources of supply in order to reclaim our neighborhoods from drug addiction and drug-related violence."
"I want to commend all of the agencies involved in this intensive investigation, including the attorney general's office and State Police," BPD Commissioner Daniel Derenda said. "Removing two-dozen drug dealers from our streets will put a severe dent in the illegal drug trade in Buffalo and Western New York."
As part of a multiagency investigation code-named "Operation Rolling Thunder," state, federal and local law enforcement agents, led by Schneiderman's organized crime task force (OCTF), NYSP's CNET and the DEA, conducted a nine- month-long investigation that included undercover operations, hundreds of hours of covert surveillance, and wiretaps. The investigation led to the seizure of more than 11/2 kilograms of heroin, some laced with fentanyl, and 6 kilograms of cocaine - all for distribution in Buffalo and Lockport.
According to the indictment, members of the narcotics distribution organization would travel to New York City to obtain heroin and drive immediately back to Buffalo. Heroin was found in packages in the columns of steering wheels, in engine compartments, and under seats of various vehicles used by the targets. Jose Maldonado, Jonathan Ramos-Ramos, and their workers, allegedly sold heroin daily from a location on Pennsylvania Avenue in Buffalo. Hector Santiago allegedly sold heroin laced with fentanyl in Niagara County, which he allegedly obtained from the same source of supply in the Washington Heights area of New York City.
Wiretaps caught the defendants discussing their drug transactions, in the Spanish language, in a cryptic and coded manner in the hope of avoiding detection by law enforcement. More than 11/2 kilograms of fentanyl-laced heroin were seized in the course of the investigation, which have a value of over $600,000 when sold on the street in bundles.
Jonathan Aleman-Gonzalez allegedly had more than 2 kilograms of cocaine mailed to Omar Vellon Aponte on Buffalo's East Side, as well as to Gonzalez' home. In one instance, the narcotics were contained in two cans of pinto beans, which were opened and resealed. An associate named Raul Lopez Sanchez drove from New Jersey, allegedly bringing a half kilogram of cocaine to Buffalo wrapped as a birthday gift, for delivery to Gonzalez, when he was stopped in the parking lot of the Days Inn near the Buffalo Niagara Airport, and the package was seized. The street value of the 6 kilos of cocaine seized during the course of this investigation is $1.2 million.
The 69-count indictment unsealed in Erie County Court Thursday charges 25 people with crimes including criminal sale and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and second degrees, and conspiracy in the second degree (class A and B felonies) - punishable by up to 25 years in prison - and various other counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance.
The charges against the defendants are accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.