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Convicted felon on city payroll, already on probation, faces new drug charge

A city public works employee already on probation for felony drug and weapons convictions was arrested May 15, when he was pulled over in a van that contained 1.75 pounds of cocaine and $17,000 in cash, court records show.

Dominic Daniels, 30, pleaded guilty last October to criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree and attempted criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, both felonies. He was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and five years of probation.

Daniels – the son of a well-known anti-violence activist – has worked as a general laborer in the city's Department of Public Works since 2006, and earned $31,670 last year, according to city records. The year before, he made $13,890. In 2014 he earned $24,224.

After The Buffalo News contacted City Hall on Friday about Daniels' felony record and the new charges, city officials said he would be fired.

"We are in the process of terminating his employment," Public Works Commissioner Steve Stepniak said in an emailed statement.

City officials did not address how or why he remained a city employee after his earlier convictions.

In the most recent arrest May 15,  law enforcement received a tip that Daniels would be traveling in a white rental pickup truck with "a large amount of cocaine," according to federal court documents.

As part of an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Erie County Sheriff's Office, law enforcement set up surveillance at a hotel on Dick Road in Cheektowaga. Daniels was seen carrying a package from a hotel room to a white rental pickup and began driving, according to the court records.

He drove to an address on James Street in Buffalo where police observed what "appeared to be a narcotics transaction between a white man and Daniels," according to an affidavit by a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations.

As Daniels drove away from James Street, a marked Sheriff's Office unit pulled him over, the affidavit said. A search of the vehicle turned up "approximately 794 grams of a white substance that field tested positive for cocaine," as well as a gray plastic bag containing $17,000 in cash.

Deputies also found a hotel key card for a room paid for with the credit card of another man, Richard Lucas. When sheriff's investigators approached Lucas, who was in a Corvette at the hotel, Lucas "began to struggle with" them and tried to flee, the affidavit said. After "a long foot chase," Lucas was taken into custody.

Investigators obtained a search warrant for the hotel room and found about $40,000 inside a room safe, according to the court papers.

Daniels and Lucas were both charged with criminal possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a controlled substance and conspiring to do so. Both were being held pending hearings.

A U.S. District Court judge set bail at $50,000 in property, said Daniels' attorney, Jeremy Schwartz.

"We're getting the properties together," he said.

If he is released, Daniels would have to wear an ankle monitor, too, Schwartz said.

Daniels is also scheduled to be arraigned in State Supreme Court on Tuesday for a probation violation hearing. Schwartz said he hoped that the judge would find the conditions set in federal court to be sufficient.

Daniels is the son of Arlee Daniels Jr., a prominent community activist who co-founded the Stop the Violence Coalition. Its members work with young people to steer them away from crime and also advocate for the victims of street violence.

Arlee Daniels said he doesn’t know the details about the charges against his son but said he would support him, as any parent would.

"Everybody is innocent until proven guilty," he said.

Arlee Daniels on Thursday , July 29 ,2010 in Buffalo, NY.(Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)

He acknowledged that his son has had trouble with the law before.

"I'm not making any excuses for him, and I never would make excuses," Arlee Daniels said. "If he's found guilty, I think he needs to answer the punishment based on the court process playing out. But I'm going to stick by him. I've got to support him."

Arlee Daniels said he realizes that the latest charges could land his son behind bars. Dominic Daniels was on probation when he was arrested May 15.

In the previous felony case, Dominic Daniels was arrested Oct. 27, 2015,  on Castle Place after police officers approached his vehicle and saw him making a "stuffing motion" in between the driver's seat and the center console. Police recovered a clear, plastic bag containing between half an ounce and 4 ounces of "white powder and rock substance (suspected to be cocaine)," according to police reports.

Then on Jan. 17, 2016, Dominic Daniels and two other men were arrested on Bailey Avenue, near East Ferry Street.

Police were responding to an "unknown trouble call" on Bailey when, according to arrest records, they saw Daniels and a second man getting out of, and then back into, a car. Police said a third man was seen crouching next to the vehicle and throwing something under it. Police said they heard a metal object hit the ground.

Two loaded handguns were recovered: a .40-caliber semiautomatic and a 9 mm handgun. Both weapons had been reported stolen from out of state. After the men were taken into custody, police also found one plastic bag with powder cocaine in the back of the patrol car that Dominic Daniels was put into, according to the police report.

At the time of that arrest, Daniels was recovering from a gunshot wound to the leg, records show.

Arlee Daniels talked of the circumstances and pressures "that young, urban men have to deal with."

He said he knows of instances of well-educated, young African-American men who feel they need to carry a gun to feel safe because of the crime around them. He also spoke of the impact of drugs in poor neighborhoods.

"Those drugs are finding their way into our community," he said. "It's like throwing candy in a playground. You don't think the kids are going to scramble for it?"

The arrests have been difficult for Arlee Daniels and his wife.

"I might have failed my son," he said, "because I was so busy trying to help everybody else's child and missed some of the things that I should have been seeing in my own son."

Arlee Daniels made clear he doesn't blame police and he's not excusing his son's past actions. "I have the utmost respect and praise for law enforcement. I don't want that to be misconstrued. I do appreciate the job they do in our community. Now, I have to support my son and pray and hope for the best."

Arlee Daniels said he doesn't know the circumstances of his son's latest arrest.

"I'd rather see my son locked up than dead ...," he said. "God has a mysterious way. If this is how he's getting my attention, I thank you God for sparing his life and getting him locked up."


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