Agents seized 48 kilograms of cocaine in Illinois earlier this week, and that bust led to the dismantling of a Mexico-to-Buffalo drug trafficking network, federal officials announced Friday.
The cocaine that was discovered as part of a traffic stop included 18 kilograms that was headed to Buffalo, the federal officials said. They estimated the wholesale value of the cocaine at about $40,000 a kilogram.
The investigation also resulted in the arrest of two local men, Remus Nowak, 47, and Fernando Rodriquez, 51, both of Buffalo.
"Though we may be over 2,000 miles away from the Mexican border, this case illustrates that the illegal flow of controlled substances over that border is very real right here in Buffalo," said Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr.
Investigators received information earlier this month that a large-scale cocaine distribution ring with ties to Mexico was smuggling drugs into the United Staes and ultimately Arizona, where the cocaine would then be distributed throughout the country, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel L. Violanti, the lead prosecutor in the case.
The distribution network included Buffalo, and Nowak, Fernandez and James Wilkie, the man accused of bringing the cocaine to Buffalo, had been involved in several previous deals, Violanti said.
"These individuals have made several runs in the past, so we're confident we've stopped a significant amount of cocaine from coming into the area," Violanti said.
Investigators say Wilkie was the one who would bring the cocaine to Buffalo, where he would then give it to Nowak who, in turn, would give it to Rodriquez. All three men were arrested earlier this week.
Investigators said the seizure of the 48 kilograms of cocaine in Illinois was the result of a probe that extended to several parts of the country.
"It's an ongoing investigation involving the states of Arizona and Illinois," said Jim McHugh, supervisory special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration in Buffalo.
Defense attorney Thomas J. Eoannou confirmed he has been retained to represent Nowak but said it was too early in the prosecution to comment.
The arrests are the result of an investigation by the DEA and the Erie County Sheriff's Office, Niagara County Sheriff's Office, NFTA Police, Hamburg Police, Niagara Falls Police, Cheektowaga Police and Buffalo Police.