About $60,000 was found in the spare tire of a speeding vehicle from Connecticut. Another $200,000 was seized from the Ohio home of the key suspect's mother. And the search of another seized vehicle in the Jamestown area yielded almost a kilo of heroin.
Monday, the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force, working with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, revealed the length and breadth of a heroin trafficking ring that authorities have broken up with eight arrests.
"It was by far the largest heroin ring that we've uncovered in the history of our county," Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph A. Gerace said. "These guys were dealing half a kilo a week."
Centered in Jamestown, the heroin dealing extended through much of Chautauqua County and into Cattaraugus County, while also operating in Youngstown, Ohio; New Britain, Conn., and Waterbury, Conn., authorities said Monday.
"We've never had this kind of distribution network for heroin in our county," Gerace said, adding that the addictive quality of heroin is just "mind-boggling."
The 16-month probe began in November 2009, when the Regional Drug Task Force began an investigation into the heroin trafficking that authorities claim was run by Victor "Pito" Angueira, now 28, of Celoron.
Last December, U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny signed a court order authorizing wire taps on the key suspect's phone.
Several law enforcement agencies, including the DEA offices in Buffalo and Ohio, determined that at least 15 street-level heroin dealers were part of the operation, distributing about half a kilo of heroin a week throughout Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.
Investigators used several search warrants late last week to uncover evidence about the heroin ring:
*Thursday, agents seized about $60,000 hidden in a spare tire of a speeding Lincoln Navigator stopped by police following a supposed drug deal in a heroin "stash house" in Jamestown, DEA officials said.
Four occupants of the vehicle were arrested. Investigators later took four more suspects into federal custody.
*The same day, DEA agents in Ohio used a search warrant at the Campbell, Ohio, home of Angueira's mother, where they seized about $200,000.
*Friday, Chautauqua County Judge John T. Ward signed search warrants for four residences in Jamestown and Celoron. Detectives and DEA agents found about half a kilo each of heroin and cocaine, along with a handgun, rifle and bulletproof vest.
Each of the eight suspects has been charged with conspiracy to possess, with intent to deliver, at least one kilogram of heroin. If found guilty, they face minimum sentences of 10 years in federal prison.
The suspects include Angueira, of Conewango Avenue, Celoron; Victor L. Monge, 28, of Peach Street, Jamestown; and Boris A. Aguayo, of Broadhead Avenue, Jamestown.
Three other suspects list addresses in Connecticut, while the other two live in the Bronx and Georgia, according to police reports.
Gerace said investigators expect to make at least 15 more arrests in the continuing probe.