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COCAINE NETWORK SHUT, AUTHORITIES SAY

A cocaine distribution network that supplied drug users from Rochester to Buffalo and Niagara Falls and generated an estimated $12 million in sales has been shut down, law enforcement officials said today.

Fourteen individuals were rounded up this morning on arrest warrants executed by federal, state and local police, who earlier this year locked up the leaders of the drug ring, according to U.S. Attorney Denise E. O'Donnell. Earlier, authorities arrested 19 individuals, and four remain at large.

The cocaine, which came from the Dominican Republic, was smuggled into Houston and then transported by car to Rochester for distribution throughout Western New York by what authorities call the Castillo group, after ringleader Enrique Castillo, 25, of Rochester.

"We believe today's indictments should put a significant dent into drug dealing on Buffalo's Lower West Side and in Niagara Falls," said state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. "The Castillo group is a major drug gang in Western New York, moving an average of 10 kilos a month into the area for at least two years."

O'Donnell said her office is seeking criminal forfeiture of the drug network's $12 million in profits made over the last two years.

"Our investigation shows that they have been operating for at least two years and have made an estimated $12 million," she said.

The investigation into the gang started 12 months ago, and evidence-gathering relied heavily on electronic eavesdropping of cellular telephone conversations among gang associates, according to O'Donnell.

She praised the efforts of the numerous law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation.

Spitzer said that authorities monitored cellular phone calls to track members of the group. "The wonderful thing about electronic surveillance and listening in on phone conversations is that it leads to others through phone-billing records," he said.

Agencies involved in the case included the state attorney general's Organized Crime Task Force, the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration, New York State Police, Niagara County and Erie County sheriffs' departments, Niagara Falls Police Department, Rochester Police Department, the Monroe County Multi-Agency Drug Task Force, the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

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