A.G. Schneiderman Busts Another Organized Drug Distribution Ring In Western NY
Joint Law Enforcement Operation Shuts Down Illegal Prescription Drug Ring; Defendants Hail from Buffalo and Niagara Counties
Schneiderman: We've Dealt Yet Another Critical Blow to Drug Operations on Buffalo's Streets
BUFFALO - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrests and indictments of 10 Buffalo and Niagara Falls residents accused of operating a prescription drug and cocaine distribution ring on Buffalo city streets. The arrests are the result of a year-long investigation in partnership with the New York State Police. The investigation focused on the sale and re-sale of prescription drugs, such as Suboxone and Lortab. The two drugs are commonly used by doctors to manage the addiction and pain of drug addicts.
This is the second major drug distribution ring to be stopped by a joint law enforcement operation in less than two weeks. On March 2, Attorney General Schneiderman visited Buffalo to announce the largest heroin bust in Buffalo history.
"As I said just two weeks ago when we announced the largest heroin bust in Buffalo history, my office will continue to crack down on drug traffickers to keep our communities safe," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "No matter how many investigations it takes, we will keep working to get narcotics off the streets so they can no longer wreak havoc on our residents.”
In a coordinated, year-long effort, Investigators from New York State Police, the Erie County Sheriff's Department and the Buffalo Police Department, worked in conjunction with investigators and attorneys from the Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) to compile evidence against this organized narcotic pill and cocaine distribution ring. The original targets of this conspiracy were Michael Fiorello and Louis Viggato.
The investigation revealed the Fiorello and Viggato would make money by obtaining the drugs through prescriptions and then re-sell each individual pill. Typically, a single Suboxone tablet was sold on the street for the sum of $10 to $15 per pill.
"The city of Buffalo is pleased to continue our partnership with local, state, and federal agencies in cracking down on drugs on our streets," said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. "I want to once again thank Attorney General Schneiderman for helping our efforts of cleaning up our streets."
New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D'Amico said, "This collaborative investigative effort successfully targeted these individuals in an emerging trend in drug abuse, the illicit sale of prescription drugs."
Suboxone is a narcotic preparation used in the treatment of those suffering from an opiate addiction. Lortab is a narcotic pain reliever used to treat patients who suffer from sever to moderate pain. These narcotic preparations are available only by prescription and are identified as controlled substances by the New York State Public Health Law. Both drugs were routinely abused by the targets of this investigation.
The indictment charges that Fiorello, Viggato, and the other defendants, were engaged in an on-going conspiracy to obtain prescriptions for Suboxone and Lortab. After the re-sale of the prescriptions, the proceeds from the sale were then used to purchase and re-sell cocaine and other street drugs. The co-conspirators were, for the most part, receiving Medicaid Pharmacy Benefits, whereby the majority of the cost of Suboxone and Lortab was provided for by the Medicaid program.
The conspirators and others were coached by Fiorello and another co-conspirator Richard Koltoniak to exaggerate their opiate addiction symptoms to their prescribing doctors in order to obtain the maximum Suboxone prescription. The conspirators would then sell the suboxone to other consumers. Proceeds from the illicit sale of the Suboxone and Lortab would then be used to purchase and sell traditional street drugs, such as cocaine and marijuana.
The investigation revealed that Fiorello and Koltoniak would obtain the urine of young adult males to present to their medical doctors in order to create the false impression that they were in compliance with the guidelines established to obtain a prescription for Suboxone.
The police agencies involved in this investigation utilized electronic and physical surveillance, along with traditional police investigatory techniques to identify the conspirators and to gather evidence which led to the indictment.
During the course of the investigation, Louis Viggato, on four separate occasions, sold half ounces of cocaine to OCTF and New York State Police investigators working undercover. The sale took place on South Park Avenue in the South Buffalo area.
Charged under the indictment are:
Michael Fiorello, 30, Buffalo
Louis Viggato, 29, Buffalo
William Franz, 32, Niagara Falls
Maurice Giles, 34 , Buffalo
Dave Novak, 29, Buffalo
Tony Winans, 27, Buffalo
Richard Koltoniak, 26, Buffalo
Dennis Failey, 55, Buffalo
Angelo Costantino, 25, Buffalo
Jackie Gilbert, 21, Buffalo
The investigation was led by Supervising Investigator Peter J. Talty of the Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force, along with Investigator Thomas Vivian of the Organized Crime Task Force, together with Senior Investigator Vern McMillian of the New York State Police. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Deputy Attorney General Kevin Kane of the New York State Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force in the Buffalo Office, under the supervision of Peri Alyse Kadanoff, Deputy Attorney General in Charge of the New York State Attorney General's Organized Task Force. The Attorney General gratefully acknowledges the substantial assistance provided by the Erie County Sheriff's Department, under the leadership of Sheriff Timothy Howard and the Buffalo Police Department along with the Honorable Frank A. Sedita, Erie County District Attorney.