More than 7 kilos of cocaine and enough fentanyl to "wipe out the population of Erie County" were seized.
So were hundreds of thousands of dollars and guns – including assault rifles – hidden in hydraulic traps.
Federal and local law enforcement announced Tuesday that they have taken down "perhaps the most prolific drug trafficking organization currently operating here in Western New York."
Four people have been arrested following about a dozen raids over the past week in connection with the operation that federal prosecutors say funneled huge quantities of drugs from Los Angeles to Buffalo, said U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy at a news conference flanked by the region's leading law enforcement officials.
The arrests include David Washington, 39, and David Burgin, 47, both of Buffalo, who were described as being at the top of the distribution network.
Also arrested was Burgin's nephew, Rodney Pierce, 32, also of Buffalo. A fourth man in Los Angeles, Eleazar Martinez Medina, was arrested Monday night and had his first court appearance in California Tuesday.
After Washington was arrested on Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Lynch called him the "biggest drug dealer in Buffalo."
Kennedy said Tuesday that was no exaggeration, without giving details about the quantities of drugs allegedly involved in the operation.
"There was a reason he said that," Kennedy said. "He didn't just make that up."
Authorities in Buffalo have been investigating Washington and Burgin for two years, officials said Tuesday.
But the takedown began last Wednesday, Feb. 19, with actions by the Buffalo Police Department and the Erie County Sheriff's Office.
Court records show those agencies conducted raids at two residences in Buffalo following a traffic stop that yielded 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, "a quantity of marijuana," $50,000 in U.S. currency, guns, ammunition and items used for packaging drugs, including scales and cutting agents.
That led authorities to Pierce, then to Burgin, and a house at 56 Grimes St. A raid there turned up two handguns and two rifles, $250,000 in cash, cocaine, fentanyl, scales, sealers and packaging material. Photos of the items, including what looked like white powder inside plastic containers were shown to reporters.
Based on the new information and the ongoing investigation, indictments were returned against Washington and the man in Los Angeles.
Washington was brought into federal court Friday.
He was still in street clothes during the appearance. He was asked a number of questions and he responded with very short answers in a gruff voice. He seemed more aggravated than nervous.
There were three people in the courtroom who appeared to be friends or family, and spoke to his lawyer, James Auricchio, afterward.
Over the past week search warrants were also executed at 79 Brunswick Blvd., 2896 Bailey Ave., 73 Rogers Ave. and 69 Bennett Village Terrace. Authorities said they seized another $500,000 in cash and several kilos of cocaine and fentanyl.
The SWAT teams that raided the houses encountered "hydraulic traps" which were used to conceal bundles of cash, guns and even a room behind a false wall.
"These traps that we've come across are extremely hard to find," said Erie County Sheriff's Chief of Narcotics D.J. Granville. "In particular there was a staircase that was electronically wired that we were able to pry open and we discovered a quantity of U.S. currency and drugs."
Authorities ended up seizing more than seven kilos of cocaine and two kilos of fentanyl. Just two or three milligrams of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, can cause a fatal overdose, Kennedy pointed out, saying the amount found was enough to "wipe out the population of Erie County."
"The investigation has revealed a transnational criminal organization using highly sophisticated techniques to conduct their criminal activities such as counter-surveillance techniques and concealing their drugs illicit money and guns in hydraulic traps," said Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Kevin Kelly.
"This is no ordinary drug organization. This is cartel drugs coming into Buffalo," Kelly said.