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Erie County and federal prosecutors are investigating the disappearance last summer of a man identified in court papers as a former drug-dealing associate of government informant John C. Sacco Jr.

Investigators believe Sacco may know something about Michael Ress, 35, who disappeared from his Buffalo home Aug. 9 and has not been heard from since. His car was found on Chandler Street.

"We don't know if he (Ress) disappeared, was murdered or what," said G. Robert Langford, special agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI office.

Langford said the FBI does not consider Sacco a suspect in the case, but he confirmed that Sacco and Ress did work together in drug deals.

Erie County District Attorney Kevin Dillon confirmed his office also is looking into the disappearance. He declined to comment when asked whether he considers Sacco a possible witness or possible suspect in the case.

"We have been investigating the disappearance of Mr. Ress since last August. . . . I'm not going to discuss our suspicions or presumptions about the case," Dillon said.

The investigation came to light Thursday, the same day that Sacco was jailed on cocaine charges by FBI agents while U.S. Attorney Dennis C. Vacco filed court papers seeking forfeiture of Sacco's home on Commonwealth Avenue in North Buffalo.

The stocky, 62-year-old mob associate was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service by U.S. Magistrate Edmund F. Maxwell after he was charged with selling $1,400 worth of cocaine to another FBI informant in June 1989.

Law enforcement officials said Sacco's mounting legal problems could deal a severe blow to a major federal investigation into unsolved mob murders and other organized crime activities in Western New York.

But they also said they hope Thursday's arrest will persuade Sacco to be more cooperative with the probe.

"We no longer consider John Sacco an FBI-protected witness," Langford said. "He's cooperated in the past, but now he's not cooperating."

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