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$1 million cocaine bust sends a message 'Operation Trick or Treat' nets dozens of arrests in Riverside, Black Rock

A 10-month drug investigation dubbed "Operation Trick or Treat" in the city's Riverside and Black Rock sections resulted in the confiscation of $1 million in cocaine, 27 guns and dozens of arrests, authorities announced Thursday.

Mayor Byron W. Brown and Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson said a series of raids throughout Wednesday in executing 18 search warrants was intended to send a strong message that drug dealers are not welcome in Buffalo.

"We've sent a message that this is not the place to deal drugs. It's not going to be accepted or tolerated," Brown said, adding that repeated complaints of criminal activity from citizens in Black Rock and Riverside had not been ignored.

"You'd like to report to the residents, but you have to do this work in quiet and secrecy," he said.

This latest effort, Gipson said, is only one of several carried out in the last year.

"Several more on this scale are also under way," the commissioner said, pointing out that because of the continuing pressure, some drug dealers have given up that line of work and turned to robbery.

In total, "Trick or Treat" has yielded $30,000 in seized cash, $25,000 in heroin and 4 pounds of marijuana, authorities said. A big part of the success was credited to State Police Lt. Martin McKee and his out-of-town undercover officers with the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team who made the buys from unsuspecting dealers.

As a result, the Buffalo Police Narcotics Unit was able to collect intelligence from that activity and build cases against the street-level drug dealers.

When dealers would walk into a secluded courtyard at a public housing project such as Schaffer Village or Jasper Parrish, they would conduct business believing they were in a safe environment, according to Narcotics Lts. Thomas Lyon and Paul Delano.

But these dealers were willing to take risks and work out in the open, making deliveries of drugs in cars to street-corner rendezvous with customers who placed advance orders over the phone.

Residents expressed gratitude as they witnessed the busts conducted by various Buffalo police units, and SWAT teams from Amherst and Erie County Sheriff's Office, along with the Cheektowaga Police K-9 unit.

Common Council Member Joseph Golembek Jr. of the North District said he received phone calls and e-mails from grateful residents. "People were just thrilled," he said.

Jamel "Bump" Brannon, 28, of no permanent address, was identified as the main organizer of illegal drug sales in Riverside and Black Rock. He remains at large.

Individuals arrested Wednesday in the sweep were: Stacey Matthews, 22, of Condon Avenue; Jonathan Decerro, 17, of Albany Street; Laicie Manzella, 19, of Condon; Yashiara Maldonado, 18, of Condon; Kathleen Wargula, 18, of Laird Avenue; Linda Wargula, 54, of Laird; Charles Lynch, 32, of Grove Street; Michelle Anthony, 25, of Condon.

Also, Michael Burgos, 23, of Esser Avenue; Ruben Rosario, 18, unknown address; Deveraux Jaeckle, 16, of Germain Street; James Goree, 33, of Laird; Bobby Johnson, age unknown, of Grote Street; Charles Lynch, 32, of Grote; Mark Lucas, 20, of Laird; Derek Taton, 22, of Loretta Avenue, Town of Tonawanda; Deborah Wagaman, 52, of Herkimer Street; Jennifer Pladas, 32, unknown address; Martin Lauber, 33, of Herkimer; Shannon Fitzpatrick, 24, unknown address; Allen Vance, 35, of Grote; and Antoinette Burhanan, 24, of Grote.

Individuals previously arrested on warrants were identified as Doyl Avino, 41; Tyrell Legall, 35; Larry Chavers, 33; Tremaine Williams, 20; Clifford Collier, 45; Jamar Young, 19; Kelly Garcia, 35; Winston Foy, 32; Isaiah Jones, 18; Asante Kwabena, 32; Sterling Rather, 31; Johnny Lewis, 28; and E. Jay Corp, 33.

In addition to Brannon, 12 individuals are still wanted on warrants: Dwayne A. Wilson, 37; Johnny Smith, 18; John Shelton, 19; Leandro Juan Rodriguez, 33; Roberto Leon, 17; Marjorie Patterson, age unavailable; James C. Johnson, 22; Kevin D. Jakubczak, 21; Carlo A. Gibson, 23; Marquis L. Ford, 26; Sammy Delgado, 29; and Lamaine Clark, 24.

e-mail: lmichel@buffnews.com

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