Attorney General Cuomo's Organized Crime Task Force Cuts Off Puerto Rico-to-buffalo Narcotics Pipeline

BUFFALO, N.Y. (November 17, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced narcotics trafficking and other charges have been filed against 28 individuals accused of taking part in a drug distribution network which was funneling cocaine through the U.S. Mail from Puerto Rico to Buffalo for sale in Erie and Niagara Counties. In addition, it is alleged that the network was also selling illegal prescription medications.

According to court records, an investigation by the Attorney General’s Organized Task Force (OCTF) and the New York State Police dubbed, “Operation Mechanics,” led to the seizure of cocaine, cash, and two vehicles - a 2002 BMW and a 2002 Chevy Suburban.

“These arrests mark the end of an international narcotics trafficking network that was operating in and around the City of Buffalo,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Through solid investigative work at all levels of law enforcement we were able to shut down a major pipeline of drugs into Western New York.”

New York State Police Superintendent Harry J. Corbitt said, “This investigation is the offshoot of a prior joint investigation, which originated from a traffic stop made by a uniform Trooper over two years ago. As a result of the commitment of resources by the New York State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team, the Attorney General's Organized Crime Taskforce, the City of Niagara Falls Police Dept, and other agencies, these individuals will now face trial for their involvement in narcotics sales, and other criminal activities, which have long impacted the residents of Erie and Niagara Counties.”

Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita said, “I am proud to work with Attorney General Cuomo’s staff and our partners in law enforcement agencies to shut down a major drug operation in Erie County. Keeping deadly narcotics and violent crimes away from our community are among the most important issues facing law enforcement and public officials.”

According to the indictment, cocaine was sent through the United States Postal Service to supplier and defendant Jeremy Hall, via various people living in the Buffalo area. Some of the cocaine, as well as illegal prescription medication including Loratabs (hydrocodone), Percocets (oxycodone), and valium, were allegedly sold out of the defendants’ homes. Additionally, some of the illicit narcotics sales allegedly took place at several of the defendants’ places of business.

Wiretap evidence included in the indictment shows that the defendants would discuss their drug transactions in a cryptic and coded manner in the hope of avoiding detection. For example, defendants Dennis Matos and Francisco Maymi allegedly would use the phrase “getting a haircut” to refer to meetings to obtain cocaine at “Bebe’z” at 117 Grant Street, a store where Matos cut hair for a period of time. Similarly, because defendant Mark Lorenz’s business was Lorenz Auto Sales, located at 466 Southside Parkway in Buffalo, Lorenz and various co-defendants allegedly would say that there was “a car” “to look at,” or use automobile repair terms as codes when they were discussing a cocaine deal. Maymi allegedly would tell other defendants that he was “playing cards at Ronnie’s” when he planned to be distributing cocaine at the apartment of defendant Ronald Steves, at 2259 South Park Avenue in the City of Buffalo.

Because Lorenz Auto Sales is located within 1,000 feet of the Southside Elementary School, the charges for some of the drug transactions alleged to have occurred within that store carry higher offense levels, although there is no evidence that any students or school personnel were involved or directly affected.

The 213 count indictment unsealed in Erie County Supreme Court today charges 28 people with crimes including various Conspiracies (class B and E felonies), and various Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (class A,B,C,D,E felonies).

The indictment is the culmination of a major investigation led by Attorney General Cuomo’s OCTF and is part of his ongoing efforts to combat narcotic trafficking and other crimes through his Upstate Guns, Gangs, and Drugs Initiative.

Since its inception in 2007, the Attorney General’s Upstate Guns, Gangs, and Drugs Initiative has conducted a variety of operations in cooperation with local, state, and federal authorities, resulting in charges against more than 400 defendants and the seizures of over $3.3 million in drugs and cash, as well as dozens of guns.

Numerous other agencies assisted in the investigation including: City of Buffalo Police Department, the Niagara Falls Police Department, and the Lancaster Police Department. Attorney General Cuomo thanked and commended these agencies.

Those charged in the Erie County indictment are:

• Carl Block, 47, of West Seneca
• Daniel Kroll, 46, of Belmont, NJ
• Dawn Maliszewski, 41, of Buffalo
• Dennis Matos, 27, of Buffalo
• Fleming Shelby, 44, of Cheektowaga
• Francisco Maymi, 45, of Buffalo
• Gayle Lemieux, 53, of Cheektowaga
• Gregory Keller, 60, of West Seneca
• Hector Bocanegra, 31, of North Tonawada
• James Offhaus, 38, of Lancaster
• James Cramer, 44, of North Tonawanda
• Jeffrey Brown, 35, of Cheektowaga
• Jeremy Hall, 31, address unknown
• Joseph Maxwell, 48, of Buffalo
• Kevin Danieu, 46, of Derby
• Kimberly Raymond, 39, of Buffalo
• Lorenzo Rodriguez, 27, address unknown
• Lucy DelValle, 52, of Buffalo
• Mark Lorenz, 37, of West Seneca
• Matthew Bruenn, 24, of Buffalo
• Michael Gossling, 43, of Angola
• Narciso Rodriguez Jr., 42, Lackawanna
• Patricia Harding, 42, of Lackawanna
• Paul Andrzejak, 49, of Cheektowaga
• Ronald Steves, 44, of Buffalo
• Shirley Lopez, 33, of Buffalo
• Stephanie Nowak, 21, of Hamburg
• Viyakone Phakkhonkham, 27, of Buffalo

The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorneys General Patricia Carrington and Kevin Kane, under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Robin L. Baker, and OCTF First Assistant Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff.

The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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