Carlos Perez, 40, of Vancouver was arrested Wednesday night after authorities discovered 10 kilograms of cocaine hidden in his SUV which was parked in Niagara Falls, law enforcement officials said Thursday morning at a press conference at the Erie County Sheriff's Office.
"The information developed in this case was fairly recent," said James C. Spero, special agent in charge at the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, Western District, New York.
"It will be part of a larger conspiracy to smuggle contraband drugs into the United States as well as guns," Spero said.
The arrest was a combined effort of Homeland Security Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration, Niagara Falls Police Department and the Erie County Sheriff's Office.
They were acting on information that Perez would be entering the area with a large quantity of cocaine, said Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard.
"The vehicle was located last night in the City of Niagara Falls and brought to our forensic garage at 45 Elk St. A search was conducted of that vehicle and 10 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of a half-million dollars were found," said Howard.
The search warrants were signed by Supreme Court Justice Timothy J. Drury.
The vehicle, a Hyundai SUV, contained a sophisticated hidden compartment in the rear that held 10 bricks of individually wrapped cocaine, said officials.
Authorities declined to reveal where in Niagara Falls the vehicle was found because of the ongoing investigation.
"This particular batch of cocaine originated from the southwest border and was seized in Niagara Falls," said Spero.
Also recovered during the course of the investigation were 100 pounds of marijuana, three ounces of crystal methamphetamine, four weapons and $10,000.
That contraband is not part of the charges Perez currently faces.
$500,000 cocaine bust in Niagara Falls sez Sheriff Howard, pic.twitter.com/nZyCRohUVT
— Jane Kwiatkowski (@kwiatkowskiBN) December 22, 2016
Perez was born in the Dominican Republic, said officials, and worked as a house painter, said Alan Rozansky, chief narcotics detective for the sheriff's office.
Niagara Falls Police Chief Bryan DalPorto expressed concern over the growing violence he linked to the illegal drug trade in his city.
“In Western New York and specifically in the city of Niagara Falls, there are significant issues with drugs," DalPorto said. "Drug dealers and traffickers create a large amount of violent crime. As you know, the violent crime we experience in Niagara Falls is usually related to gangs and drugs or some type of violent gun crime. It’s a problem we deal with every day.”
Perez was charged with narcotics possession, an A1 felony and possession of narcotics with intent to sell. He is being held without bail.