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8 arrested by feds on charges related to suspected transnational drug ring

8 arrested by feds on charges related to suspected transnational drug ring

Eight people were arrested Wednesday in an early morning drug roundup for their suspected roles in a transnational drug trafficking ring that federal authorities said stretched from Mexico to Buffalo.

According to U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr., six of those arrested have been charged by complaint with conspiring to possess with intent to distribute, and distributing, controlled substances. They are Ronnie Charleston, 37, Robert Claiborne, 39, Antoine Gilbert, 42, Tonie Wiley, 40, Aaron Spain Jr., 37, and Eric Hale, 40, all of Buffalo.

Prosecutors said 41-year-old Saan Thompson and 42-year-old Louis Gilbert, of Buffalo, were each charged by indictment with narcotics conspiracy and possessing with intent to distribute crack cocaine and cocaine.

Thompson and Gilbert each face a mandatory minimum penalty of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison.

All of the defendants are accused of being part of a transnational drug trafficking ring that moved bulk quantities of cocaine, heroin and fentanyl into the Western New York area.

Federal investigators believe the organization’s Buffalo-based operation is headed by David Burgin, 47, and David Washington, 39, who were both arrested on drug conspiracy charges in February.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura A. Higgins,  Burgin and Washington used a network of distributors to sell narcotics in the Western New York area, as well as several out-of-state sources of supply for cocaine and heroin.

Washington is accused of supplying Saan Thompson with narcotics in Buffalo. Prosecutors accused Thompson of selling the narcotics to others named as defendants in the case for redistribution.

Investigators Wednesday executed search warrants at four different locations and seized a kilogram of suspected cocaine, 40 grams of suspected crack cocaine packaged for distribution, several pounds of marijuana, a loaded handgun, 1,500 rounds of assorted ammunition, pistol magazines and about $27,000 in cash, prosecutors said.

 “This case is a tremendous example of the determination of our law enforcement partners to continue to follow the evidence wherever it leads,” Kennedy said in a statement.

Federal authorities have been investigating the suspected drug ring for more than two years, Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Lynch said earlier this year.

Lynch at the time described Burgin and Washington as being at the top of the drug distribution chain under investigation.

Saan Thompson and Louis Gilbert were arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr. and detained.

Aaron Spain and Ronnie Charleston each made an initial appearance before Schroeder. Both were detained.

Robert Claiborne, Antoine Gilbert, Tonie Wiley and Eric Hale all made initial appearances and were released on conditions. 

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