BUFFALO – A narcotics ring allegedly selling opioids and fake oxycodone pills from California to Buffalo to Chautauqua County has been busted by investigators with 10 arrests made in Operation Blue Death, according to New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Police said the drugs were mailed to Buffalo from California and then distributed locally, including being mailed to several addresses within Chautauqua County.
The 10 arrested were allegedly trafficking narcotics, including heroin and fake oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl from California to Western New York, including Chautauqua County, Schneiderman said.
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, authorities seized 502 pills laced with fentanyl, more than 100 grams of black tar heroin, more than 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, officials said.
“As we charge in our indictment, these dealers were playing Russian Roulette with New Yorkers’ lives,” said 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 the Organized Crime Task Force, along with the New York State Police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), conducted a year-long investigation that included undercover operations, hundreds of hours of covert surveillance, and wiretaps.
In September, Schneiderman warned about dangerous and potentially lethal faux-oxycodone pills after they were intercepted by authorities. The pills appear virtually identical to prescription oxycodone, but contain a toxic mixture of fentanyl and acetaminophen. Officials said 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.
The heroin and fake oxycodone, as well as “black tar” heroin and more than 10 pounds of marijuana, were 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.
The indictment alleges that 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, authorities said. 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.
“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,” DEA Special Agent in Charge James Hunt said.
The indictment charges 10 people with 59 felony counts of possession and distribution of narcotics. Charged were: Jonathan Rosario, Buffalo; Jonathan Ivan Medina, known as “Tati”, Buffalo; Carlos Martinez, Buffalo; Roger Gonzalez, Buffalo; Randy Gonzalez, Buffalo; Pablo Zambrano-Rialto, California; Frank Perez, known as “Andy”, Buffalo; Angel Medina, Buffalo; Anthony Roman, Buffalo and Fernando Maldonado, known as “Fendi”, of Buffalo.
“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.
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law, officials noted. 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.