Seventeen In Custody Following Niagara Falls Cocaine Investigation
New York State Attorney General Spitzer, State Police Superintendent Wayne E. Bennett, Niagara County District Attorney Matthew Murphy, Niagara County Sheriff Thomas Beilein, and Niagara Falls City Police Commissioner John Chella today announced that 19 people have been charged in five separate indictments stemming from their participation in a large-scale cocaine trafficking operation and associated gang activity in Western New York. One additional person was arrested after being charged in a separate felony complaint.
The first indictment, totaling 21 counts, charges 15 people with Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a class "B" felony. Additionally the defendants are charged variously with Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance.
Charged in the indictment are: Clayton "Iceberg" Green, 52, Chanikka Davis-Payne, 28, Rashawn Salmon, 20, Jeremy Scott, 28, Dante Shine, 24, Michael Harchula, 29, Ross Fitzgibbon, 26, Tanika McCreary, 27, William Lobianco, 41, and his wife, Lisa Lobianco, 32, Keith Robinson, 27, all of Niagara Falls; Rebecca Spann, 30, and Kathryn Ortiz, 41, both of Geneva; Derrick " Nature Boy" Stephens, 49, of Cheektowaga; and Ronald Palmer, 41, of Lake View.
Twelve defendants are scheduled to be arraigned today before Niagara County Court Judge Peter L. Broderick. Defendants Salmon, Shine, and Ortiz remain at large.
According to the indictment, it is alleged that between December 2005 and March 2006 the defendants collectively possessed and sold cocaine in Niagara, Erie and Ontario counties. During the course of the investigation, police recovered over 300 grams of cocaine with an estimated street value of $35,000.
The indictment further alleges that Green, Davis-Payne, Salmon and Stephens supplied cocaine to each other and to Spann and Ortiz. In addition to the Conspiracy charge, the indictment charges those defendants with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance with the intent to sell.
If convicted of the most serious charges, Green could face life in state prison; Davis-Payne, Salmon, and Stephens could face up to 10 years; all other defendants could face up to 9 years in state prison.
This is the second indictment returned by a Niagara County Grand Jury against Green, Davis-Payne, and Scott. In March 2006, those defendants were indicted and charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance and Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance after law enforcement officials executed search warrants at their residences. During the execution of the warrant, law enforcement officials seized over 10 ounces of cocaine and assorted drug paraphernalia and tools such as compression materials, scales and packaging materials.
In April 2006, Green and Davis-Payne were also indicted for Endangering the Welfare of a Child for allegedly committing crimes in front of young children. The defendants were arraigned before Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon-Sperazza, and have been in the Niagara County jail in connection with this pending matter.
The four additional indictments unsealed today variously charge Morris "Bow Legs" Shavers, 38; William "Black" Matthews, 32, James "Congo" Mallory, 38, and Lysander Scott, 22, all of Niagara Falls, with Criminal Sale and Possession of a Controlled Substance. If convicted of the most serious charge, these defendants face up to 9 years in state prison
These defendants are scheduled to be arraigned before Judge Sheldon-Sperazza.
Gwendolyn Smith, 40, of Niagara Falls was also arrested . She was charged by felony complaint with Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, a class "E" felony for allegedly allowing Green to store cocaine at her Niagara Falls apartment. If convicted, Smith could face up to 5 ½ years in state prison.
The arrests follow a nine-month, joint-investigation by the New York State Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force, the New York State Police, the Niagara Falls Police Department, the Niagara County Sheriff's Department, and the Niagara County Drug Task Force.
The investigation began with a probe of gangs whose members where alleged to be selling cocaine in the city of Niagara Falls, which has been plagued by drug trafficking. In October 2005, the Attorney General's office was contacted by the Niagara Falls Police Department for assistance in the investigation.
The other four indictments allege conduct occurring between October 2005 and January 2006. The defendants in those cases are alleged to have sold cocaine at various locations in the city of Niagara Falls.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Deputy Attorneys General Robert J. Lee and Kevin J. Kane of the New York State Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force, Buffalo Office, under the direction of Christopher Prather, the Deputy Attorney General in charge of the Task Force, and Niagara County District Attorney Matthew Murphy. The investigation was led by Supervising OCTF Investigator Peter J. Talty, under the direction of OCTF Chief Investigator Thomas Mullen. Also participating in the investigation were Captain Morris Shamrock of the Niagara Falls Police Department, Chief Mark Driess of the Niagara County Drug Task Force and Lieutenant William Saunders of the New York State Police.
Earlier this week, in a separate matter, officials received a tip regarding possible narcotics activity in the City of Niagara Falls. As a result, officials seized 40 kilos of cocaine possessing an estimated street value of $3.3 million.