By Benjamin C. Klein
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WENY) – A joint local, state and federal narcotics investigation into a Western New York drug ring dubbed ‘Operation Big Eight Narco’ has resulted in the arrest of 14 people and seizure of large amounts of cocaine and fentanyl.
New York Attorney General Letitia James made the announcement where she stressed curbing violent crime is a top priority for her office.
“Keeping our streets and communities safe from dangerous drugs and violence is a top priority… Any drug operation that floods our streets with cocaine and fentanyl puts our residents at risk, but this operation was particularly dangerous because they disguised these lethal drugs as prescription pills,” said James in a prepared statement.
According to the indictment, the drug rink trafficked more than $250,000 worth of cocaine and thousands of fentanyl pills disguised as Oxycodone throughout Erie and Niagara counties. Authorities seized approximately 1,440 counterfeit prescription “M-30” fentanyl pills, nearly one kilogram of cocaine, a loaded .45 caliber pistol, and more than $4,000 in cash.
The arrests were the result of an 18-month investigation led by the Office of the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force in partnership with the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration, Buffalo District Office’s Tactical Diversion Squad, and New York State Police’s Violent Gang and Narcotic Enforcement Team.
“DEA investigates criminal networks, worldwide and locally, who are responsible for fueling drug poisonings and violent crime,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino in a prepared statement.
Tarentino added that Operation Big Eight Narco highlights how drug traffickers use social media along with violence as a means to further their drug business.
The indictment charges 14 individuals with various crimes related to their alleged involvement in the narcotics trafficking operation, including Operating as a Major Trafficker, various counts of Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance and Conspiracy in the Second Degree, all felonies.
“This takedown is part of our ongoing efforts to keep our neighborhoods safe and go after those who put New Yorkers in harm’s way. I thank our partners in law enforcement for their critical support and collaboration,” James said.
The following individuals were arrested as a result of Operation Eight Narco.
Tajine Benning, 48 years old, Niagara Falls, NY
Ronnie Cason, 46 years old, Buffalo, NY
Michael Clark, Jr., 23 years old, Buffalo, NY
Melanie Duchnik, 40 years old, Buffalo, NY
Anthony Fugate, 31 years old, Buffalo, NY
Tevin Jeter, 30 years old, Buffalo, NY
Devon Jones, a/k/a “Dutch”, 33 years old, Buffalo, NY
Jasper Lewis, 34 years old, Buffalo, NY
Negmarie Marcano, 40 years old, Buffalo, NY
Michael McPhee, 36 years old, Lockport, NY
Musa Ramadan, 36 years old, Buffalo, NY
Eric Richmond, 36 years old, Buffalo, NY
Charles Sims, 50 years old, Buffalo, NY
Ronald Washington, 35 years old, Buffalo, NY
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