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Post date: December 10 2003

Drug Task Force Investigation Results In Indictment

New York State Attorney General Spitzer and State Police Superintendent Wayne E. Bennett today announced that an Erie County Special Grand Jury has indicted 23 people on a 15-count indictment charging their participation in a large-scale heroin trafficking operation.

"The war on drugs is being fought aggressively across New York," said Spitzer. "Today, the collective efforts of law enforcement cracked a heroin ring that brazenly operated in Western New York. We remain committed to continuing our efforts to rid drug activity from our communities irrespective of region, neighborhood or season. Our efforts are year-round and around-the-clock."

New York State Police Superintendent Wayne E. Bennett said: "The coordination, cooperation and investigative persistence of the many law enforcement agencies responsible for these indictments, sends a strong message to all those involved in the drug trade, that New York State will not tolerate those who bring drugs into our communities."

Charged in the indictment are: Javier Colon-Torres, 34; Santos Guzman, 24; Wanda Morales, 31; Jose Mercado, 37; Juan Oliveras, 43; Josue Calderon-Rosado, 20; Angel Nadal, 24; Anibal Rivera, 55; and Lisandro Arroyo, 33; of Buffalo, and Pamela Blanc, 30; Israel Frias, 35; of New Jersey. The charges against these individuals include Conspiracy, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, and Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance, and stem from a joint nine month investigation by the New York State Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force, the New York State Police, the Erie County Sheriff's Department, the Niagara Falls Police Department, and the Buffalo Police Department.

If convicted of the most serious charges Colon-Torres, Morales, Guzman, Frias and Blanc could face life in state prison; all other defendants could face up to 25 years in state prison.

The defendants were arraigned today before Supreme Court Justice Ronald H. Tills.

The investigation began earlier this year with a probe into the sales of heroin on Buffalo's West Side, which have been plagued by drug trafficking. A number of transactions occurred from the booths and tables of a fast-food restaurant. In the indictment, it is alleged that since March 2003, the named defendants collectively possessed and sold heroin in Niagara and Erie Counties. During the course of the investigation, police recovered almost a pound of heroin with an estimated street value of $160,000.

Evidence developed during the investigation also resulted in 12 additional individuals being arrested and arraigned today: Elliott Arroyo, 21; Rey Colon, 28; Rafael Torres, 50; Charles Parisi, 60; Violeta Ortiz, 38; Sonia Negrin, 3; Frank Aberella, 51; Ray Gechoff, 45; Earl Griffin, 55; and Bruce Saldana, 53; all are residents of Buffalo. Also charged are Jonah Taylor, 54; and Dorothy Rice, 51; of Niagara Falls.

Defendants Blanc, Frias, Gechoff, and Nadal are currently at large.

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

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Deputy Attorney General Patricia I. Carrington 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. The investigation was led by Senior Investigator Ronald Vincent of the Organized Crime Task Force, under the direction of Supervising OCTF Investigator Peter J. Talty, in cooperation with Lieutenant Jerome P. Pristash and the New York State Community Narcotics Enforcement Team (C-NET).