News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
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Multi-Agency “Operation Blue Death” Results In Arrest Of 10 Individuals Who Allegedly Trafficked Narcotics – Including Heroin And Fake Oxy Pills – From California To Western New York
Takedown Follows AG’s September Public Health Warning On Potentially Lethal, Fentanyl-Laced Pills
Operation Blue Death Marks Latest Development In SURGE Initiative To Curb Opioid Epidemic
BUFFALO – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the takedown of a ten-person drug trafficking ring that allegedly trafficked narcotics – including heroin and faux oxycodone pills which contained fentanyl – from California to Western New York.
The 59-count indictment against nine Buffalo residents and their alleged supplier in California details a broad scheme to sell dangerous narcotics throughout Erie and Chautauqua Counties in Western New York. As part of the multi-agency investigation dubbed “Operation Blue Death,” authorities seized 502 pills laced with fentanyl, over 100 grams of black tar heroin, over 130 grams of cocaine, 15 pounds of marijuana, and a 9mm highpoint pistol with 27 rounds of ammunition. The pills – purposely designed to look identical to oxycodone pills – were made from a toxic mix of fentanyl and acetaminophen.
“As we charge in our indictment, these dealers were playing Russian Roulette with New Yorkers’ lives,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Today we’re taking these poison pill traffickers off our streets following an extensive investigation that spanned both coasts. With the opioid epidemic devastating families in Buffalo and across New York, we’ll continue to use every tool at our disposal to tackle the crisis head on.”
State, federal, and local law enforcement agents led by Attorney General Schneiderman’s Organized Crime Task Force, along with the New York State Police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), conducted a nearly year-long investigation that included undercover operations, hundreds of hours of covert surveillance, and wiretaps.
Today’s indictment follows Attorney General Schneiderman’s September public health warning in Buffalo regarding the dangerous and potentially lethal faux-oxycodone pills after they were intercepted by authorities. Law enforcement subsequently determined that the pills, which appear virtually identical to the prescription medication oxycodone, actually contain a toxic mixture of the deadly drug fentanyl and acetaminophen. Attorney General Schneiderman explained that the faux oxycodone pills, which were purposely designed to be sold as prescription-strength oxycodone, are extremely dangerous as the unsuspecting user is actually ingesting a potentially deadly quantity of fentanyl, which is fifty times stronger than heroin.
As today’s indictment details, that package, as well as one which contained “black tar” heroin and over ten pounds of marijuana, was one of many allegedly sent from California to Buffalo by defendant Pablo Zambrano. The packages were intended for delivery to Jonathan Rosario and Jonathan Ivan Medina (known as “Tati’), who would allegedly distribute narcotics to Fernando Maldonado (known as “Fendi”), Frank Perez (also known as “Andy”), and others for resale. Various individuals would accept delivery of packages for the trafficking ring after the packages were mailed from California to several addresses in Erie and Chautauqua counties.
As alleged in the indictment, other members of this narcotics conspiracy trafficked cocaine, as well as heroin. During the investigation, more than 130 grams of cocaine were seized from Roger Gonzalez, who sold cocaine along with his cousin, Randy Gonzalez. The pair allegedly obtained the cocaine from Carlos Martinez; Martinez is alleged to also have sold heroin, often laced with fentanyl, on several occasions, using co-conspirators Angel Medina and Anthony Roman as runners to deliver heroin to customers.
DEA Special Agent in Charge James Hunt stated, “These arrests will make a significant impact in quality of life for residents on the West Side of Buffalo. This year-long investigation alleges defendants enabled addiction by selling heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl disguised as oxycodone pills for their personal gain. By working collaboratively, law enforcement uprooted this organization and placed them behind bars.” SAC Hunt would like to thank those who participated in the investigation and DEA’s Charlotte District Office and Riverside District Office for their assistance.
Superintendent George P. Beach said, “With today’s arrests, law enforcement is once again sending a strong message that the trafficking of heroin and other illegal drugs will not be tolerated in New York State. The successful conclusion to this investigation is only possible because of the continued collaboration of state, federal and local law enforcement partners, which is necessary to bring down these drug trafficking networks. I commend our members and our partners for their outstanding work.”
Today’s indictment charges ten individuals with a total of 59 felony counts of possession and distribution of narcotics:
Jonathan Rosario – Buffalo, New York
Jonathan Ivan Medina, a/k/a “Tati” – Buffalo, New York
Carlos Martinez – Buffalo, New York
Roger Gonzalez – Buffalo, New York
Randy Gonzalez – Buffalo, New York
Pablo Zambrano – Rialto, California
Frank Perez, a/k/a “Andy” – Buffalo, New York
Angel Medina – Buffalo, New York
Anthony Roman – Buffalo, New York
Fernando Maldonado, a/k/a “Fendi” – Buffalo, New York
“Operation Blue Death” is the latest takedown in the Attorney General’s SURGE Initiative (Suburban and Upstate Response to the Growing Epidemic), a partnership with state and local law enforcement to root out violent gangs and drug dealers. Launched in April 2017, the SURGE Initiative focuses on the communities that have been hardest hit by drug trafficking and drug abuse across New York State. In the months since the SURGE Initiative was launched, the Attorney General’s office has arrested more than 270 dealers across the state.
In total, the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force has now busted more than 35 large narcotics trafficking rings, made more than 1,200 felony narcotics arrests, and seized millions in cash, more than a ton of illegal drugs, and hundreds of firearms since 2011.
Since 2010, Attorney General Schneiderman has launched a multi-pronged strategy to tackle New York’s constantly evolving heroin and opioid epidemic, including settlements with health insurers to remove barriers to treatment and enforce Mental Health Parity Laws; the I-STOP system, which has successfully reduced “doctor shopping” by 90%; the Community Overdose Prevention program, equipping law enforcement with naloxone; and more.
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
This investigation was conducted by the Attorney General’s OCTF Special Investigator Ever Quinones, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Peter J. Talty and Deputy Chief Eugene Black, under the overall supervision of Dominick Zarrella. The Attorney General thanks the Buffalo Police Department, Town of Amherst Police Department, the U.S. Border Patrol, the U.S. Postal Inspector, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for their assistance.
The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General Patricia I. Carrington, under the direct supervision of OCTF Deputy Chief Maria Moran. Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff runs the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force.