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West Side drug kingpin headed to federal prison

Elliott Fuentes’ reputation for being untouchable, a reputation that earned him the nickname “Godfather,” took a hit Monday.

Fuentes, the leader of a drug network that imported cocaine from Puerto Rico for sale on Buffalo’s West Side, is going to federal prison for nearly 11 years.

The sentence came eight years after he beat drug and weapons charges in a separate case.

“We have a defendant who was known in the neighborhood as the Godfather, the Teflon Don,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel A. Violanti. “People think he wasn’t prosecuted because the charges wouldn’t stick.”

The charge that eventually did stick led to his arrest in 2009 and conviction in 2013 for heading up a large-scale cocaine ring. He’s the last of several defendants in the case to be sentenced.

“He resorted to the easy money,” said defense lawyer Thomas J. Eoannou. “He turned to drugs to put food on the table.”

With a dozen friends and family, including his three daughters, looking on, Fuentes, 42, told U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara that he is sorry for the pain he caused his family. And after six years in prison, the last two waiting for sentencing, he also insists he’s a changed man.

Arcara wondered aloud why it took another drug conviction for Fuentes to admit guilt and show remorse

“Do you know how much poison he put out there?” Arcara asked Eoannou at one point Monday. “You would think he would have gotten a wake-up call.”

Eoannou acknowledged his client’s wrongdoing and suggested he’s learned from his mistakes and from his time in prison.

At the time of Fuentes’ arrest, people in his neighborhood confirmed the story about the “Godfather” nickname and said it was based on the famous 1972 film starring Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone, a Mafia boss known for avoiding prison.

Investigators said at the time that the earlier drug charges against Fuentes – they say two pounds of cocaine, seven ounces of heroin and $60,000 in cash were found at his home in the 500 block of Plymouth – were dropped because a relative took the fall.

When he was arrested again two years later, police described Fuentes as a flashy drug dealer who owned two 2007 Mazdas and a custom-made blue motorcycle that featured a picture of the drug dealer played by actor Al Pacino in the 1983 movie “Scarface” on the side gas tank.

Prosecutors said the motorcycle’s value was estimated at between $35,000 and $50,000.

Fuentes pleaded guilty to a single felony charge of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise.