A.G. Schneiderman Announces Takedown Of Puerto Rico-to-Buffalo Cocaine Ring
'Operation Beemer' Leads To Arrest And Indictment Of 22; Seizure Of More Than $400K Of Cocaine & $37K In Cash
Schneiderman: We Will Continue Our Work To Take Drugs Out Of Our Neighborhoods & Criminals Off Of Our Streets
BUFFALO –Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrests of 22 individuals and the unsealing of four indictments, including one charging 17 co-conspirators with taking part in a drug distribution network that sent cocaine through the United States Postal Service (USPS) from Puerto Rico to various locations in Erie and Niagara Counties for distribution in communities throughout Western New York.
As part of a multi-agency investigation code-named “Operation Beemer,” state and local law enforcement agents led by the New York State Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) and the New York State Police conducted a 10-month investigation that included undercover operations, covert surveillance, and wiretaps.
“We will continue our work to take illegal narcotics out of our neighborhoods and keep dangerous criminals off our streets," Attorney General Schneiderman said. “I want to commend the investigators who helped bring down this criminal enterprise. Working with our law enforcement partners enables us to share and maximize our resources to work towards our common goal of targeting and shutting down these illegal drug operations before they infect our communities."
The initial investigation focused on Moises Morales, a Buffalo resident, who investigators say transported the drugs in a BMW. The vehicle was equipped with a secret trap door to hide the drugs.
The investigation led to the seizure of more than four kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of $400,000, and more than $37,000 in cash. According to the indictment, the Puerto Rican-based leaders of this narcotics distribution organization would send the cocaine in packages through the United States Postal Service to several individuals in Buffalo, including ringleader William Jefferson. Mr. Jefferson would arrange for the packages to be picked up and prepare the drugs for distribution.
Under the indictment, Mr. Jefferson is charged with operating as a Major Trafficker, and various counts of Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (class A and B felonies), and conspiracy to commit those crimes.
The Attorney General’s investigation further revealed that couriers would ferry the money back to Puerto Rico, or send funds by wire transfer. Law enforcement officials seized $22,000 destined to pay for cocaine from one of the defendants moments before he boarded a plane to Puerto Rico. Airport authorities apprehended the suspect after they were notified by investigators from the Attorney General's office.
New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said, "The State Police’s valuable partnership with the New York State Attorney General’s OCTF combines the knowledge, experience and resources of our agencies with other law enforcement partners, allowing us to pursue, develop and prosecute outstanding cases such as this. In addition to the OTCF, thanks and recognition go to the Buffalo Police officers and detectives, New York State Parole officers, US Marshals, and State Police investigators with the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team (C-NET), Violent Felony Warrant Squad (VFW) and Counter Terrorism Intelligence Unit (CTIU) that helped bring this together today.”
Wiretap evidence included in the unsealed indictments demonstrates that the defendants discussed their drug transactions in a cryptic and coded manner to avoid detection by law enforcement.
The 31-count indictment unsealed in Erie County Supreme Court today charges 17 individuals with crimes including various counts of Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (class A and B felonies), and Conspiracy to commit those crimes.
The indictments are the culmination of a major investigation led by Attorney General Schneiderman’s OCTF and the C-NET, and are part of the Attorney General's efforts to combat large-scale narcotics trafficking and related crimes across the state.
Yesterday, the Attorney General announced the results of "Operation Snowbird," an investigation that led to the indictments of 28 people and the seizure of $2.7 million worth of cocaine. In March, Attorney General Schneiderman announced the results of "Operation Horse Trail," an investigation that led to the largest heroin bust in Buffalo history with the AG's Organized Crime Task Force arresting 15 individuals and indicting them on 51 counts.
Several other agencies and investigators participated in the investigation including: the Special Investigations Units (SIU) of the New York State Police, the City of Buffalo Police Department, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the N.Y.S. Department of Parole, and Agent Lourdes Velez of the Puerto Rico State Police's Special Arrests and Extraditions Division, under the supervision of Supervising Agent Angel Vaerga.
The investigation was conducted by OCTF Special Investigator Thomas Vivian and Supervising Investigator Peter Talty under the supervision of OCTF’s Eugene Black and NYSP Investigator Joel Catuzza and Senior Investigator Charles Torres, under the supervision of Lt. Martin McKee and Major Wayne Olson.
The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General Robert J. Lee, under the supervision of OCTF Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Prosecutions Nancy Hoppock.
The charges against the defendants are accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.