Orchard Park police have arrested five people -- including the manager and two bartenders of a tavern near Ralph Wilson Stadium -- after a yearlong investigation into cocaine sales at the bar.
Undercover officers from three suburban police departments made about a dozen cocaine purchases in the last 11 months at the EndZone Bar on Southwestern Boulevard, less than a mile from the stadium, authorities said.
"Our undercover people found it very easy to purchase cocaine at this establishment," Orchard Park Police Chief Samuel M. McCune said. "What they were doing was using this bar as a base for sales. People went in there to buy cocaine, sometimes over the bar."
Over the weekend, Orchard Park police arrested the five people on indictment warrants, each charged with multiple felony counts of both criminal possession and criminal sale of a controlled substance.
Law enforcement officials vowed to continue their investigation into illegal sales at the bar, and the information is expected to be forwarded to the State Liquor Authority.
"We want to stop the cocaine sales at the EndZone, and I think we've put a crimp in the cocaine sales in the Southtowns," McCune said.
The investigation dates back to April 2004, when Orchard Park police made some arrests at the bar on charges of after-hours alcohol sales and cocaine possession. More arrests for after-hours sales were made in February 2005. Last May, officers logged two cocaine arrests after stopping a vehicle on suspicion of drunken driving near the bar.
Last March, Orchard Park police began undercover purchases at the bar, as part of a task force that included Orchard Park Lt. Andrew Benz, Lancaster Capt. Timothy R. Murphy, East Aurora Police Chief William D. Nye and James Q. Auricchio of the district attorney's Special Investigations Bureau. The other police departments had fielded complaints and provided information about allegations of criminal activity at the bar.
"We've had problems there over the years, and with the red flags from the previous incidents, we wanted to continue the investigation and see if there were more problems," McCune said.
Kevin D. Hughes, 51, of Ridge Road, Lackawanna; Renee Chiodo, 38, of Fairdale Road, Lackawanna; Dennis J. Haugh, 47, of Paul Place, Blasdell; Carla M. Pudlewski, 24, of Milestrip Road, Orchard Park; and Michael R. Jackson, 45, of Genesee Street, Buffalo, were charged with at least two counts each of criminal possession and sales.
Police identified Jackson as the bar manager and Chiodo and Pudlewski as bartenders at the EndZone.
All five are expected to appear today before State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns.