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Buffalo-area drug ring taken down by combined law enforcement operation

ICE and law enforcement partners disrupted organization smuggling ecstasy and meth

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Acting U.S. Attorney Kathleen M. Mehltretter and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent in Charge Lev Kubiak in Buffalo jointly announce the arrest of 17 Buffalo area residents, two defendants in New York City and one in Chicago who were involved in an international ecstasy trafficking organization.

Those arrested are charged in a 24-count federal indictment with various crimes, including conspiracy to smuggle ecstasy into the United States and conspiracy to distribute ecstasy, methamphetamine and benzylpiperazine. Some of the charges carry a maximum possible sentence of 40 years in prison, a fine of $2 million or both.

Acting U.S. Attorney Mehltretter stated that the arrests today disrupted a large distribution network involving the transportation of these illegal substances into the United States from Canada. Mehltretter lauded the cooperative effort of law enforcement, and in particular, the Buffalo ICE Office of Investigations, under the direction of Buffalo Special Agent in Charge Lev Kubiak. Assistance also was provided by members of the ICE-led Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST), which is comprised of U.S. federal, state local, and Canadian law enforcement agencies partnering to combat cross border crime.

"Today's arrests show clearly how the intensive efforts of ICE, with the cooperation of other federal, state and local law enforcement, can bring to justice a criminal network responsible for smuggling illegal drugs into the United States," said Lev Kubiak, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Buffalo. "The organization targeted in this investigation was reaping profits by bringing these dangerous drugs into the country and distributing them in our community. ICE and our partner federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies are dedicated to targeting and dismantling criminal organizations that endanger public safety on each side of the U.S. and Canadian border."

In connection with the arrests, authorities executed 10 search warrants at various locations throughout the City of Buffalo, Cheektowaga, Tonawanda and West Seneca, which resulted in the seizure of various evidence and contraband. Acting U.S. Attorney Mehltretter and SAC Kubiak also would like to recognize the efforts of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Resident Agent in Charge Charles Tomaszewski, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Dave DeJoe, U.S. Customs and Border Protection under the direction of Border Patrol Chief Kevin Oaks and Director of Field Operations James Engleman, the New York State Police/CNET, under the direction of Major John J. McCabe, State Police/Special Investigations Unit, under the direction of Major Matthew S. Renneman, the Erie County Sheriffs Department (SWAT) under the direction of Sheriff Tim Howard, the Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson, and the Southern Tier Drug Task Force, all of whom participated in the investigation, arrests and search warrant executions. Mehltretter and Kubiak also noted that without the efforts of the dedicated men and women in these agencies, the operation would not have been possible.

The investigation was supported by the Department of Justice's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, and is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary C. Baumgarten.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.