Using illegally obtained prescription pain pills, a Buffalo drug ring sold those narcotics to finance the purchase of more traditional street drugs, which they also sold, State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said Tuesday.
Ten individuals were indicted and accused of selling prescription Suboxone and Lortab to buy more expensive cocaine and other drugs, which increased their customer base, the state's top prosecutor said.
The arrests, Schneiderman said, followed a yearlong investigation by his office and the New York State Police, along with some assistance from the Erie County Sheriff's Office and Buffalo Police Department.
Buffalo residents Michael Fiorello, 30, and Richard Koltoniak, 26, were accused of coaching medical patients on how to exaggerate symptoms of their addiction to opiates in order to get physicians to issue prescriptions for the maximum amount of Suboxone, a narcotic used to treat addicts.
On top of that, taxpayers often paid for the prescriptions through Medicaid benefits drug ring members received, Schneiderman added.
Fiorello and Koltoniak also obtained prescriptions under false pretenses by going to doctors, authorities said. When they were required to submit to urine testing to prove they were taking Suboxone, they allegedly provided urine obtained from other men.
Fiorello and Louis Viggato, 29, of Buffalo, allegedly sold the Suboxone pills individually on the street, obtaining in the range of $10 to $15 per pill.
At other times, drug ring members also obtained prescriptions for Lortab, a narcotic pain reliever used to treat patients who suffer from moderate to severe pain.
With money from the Suboxone and Lortab sales, cocaine, marijuana and other street drugs were purchased to go after different drug users, Schneiderman said.
On four separate occasions, Viggato allegedly sold half-ounces of cocaine to undercover investigators with the attorney general's Organized Crime Task Force and state police on South Park Avenue.
In addition to Viggato, Fiorello and Koltoniak, indicted were William Franz, 32, of Niagara Falls; Maurice Giles, 34; Dave Novak, 29; Tony Winans, 27; Dennis Failey, 55; Angelo Costantino, 25; and Jackie Gilbert, 21, all of Buffalo. Eight of them were arrested Tuesday morning, while one was already in custody, and the tenth is expected to be arraigned at a later date.
Heading the investigation was Supervising Investigator Peter J. Talty of the Organized Crime Task Force, along with task force Investigator Thomas Vivian and State Police Senior Investigator Vern McMillian.
Prosecuting the case is Assistant Deputy Attorney General Kevin Kane of the task force's Buffalo office.
Earlier this month, when Schneiderman announced the largest heroin bust in Buffalo's history, he vowed to keep up pressure on drug dealers. Tuesday, he again reiterated that promise.
"No matter how many investigations it takes, we will keep working to get narcotics off the streets so that they can no longer wreak havoc on our residents," he said.