Niagara Gazette

May 7, 2013

Falls drug kingpin sentencing delayed

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — A dispute over the length of his possible prison term has led to a delay in the sentencing of a Falls drug kingpin in federal court.

Harry Hinks had been expected to receive a sentence of 10 years behind bars and a fine in the range of $12,500 under the terms of a plea agreement he made with prosecutors in November. However a pre-sentence report, prepared by federal probation officers and recommends a higher sentence minimum.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Hinks' guilty plea to a single count of conspiracy to possess and distribute marijuana and cocaine would normally expose him to a possible term of 10 years to life in prison and a fine of $8 million. 

Hinks defense attorney, Herbert Greenman, told U.S. District Court Judge Richard Arcara that he is continuing to try to resolve the dispute with probation officials. Federal prosecutors have also said, in court filings, that they support the the original sentencing estimates.

The sentencing for Hinks is also being delayed because two of his codefendants in the case are going to trial and he has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, and testify against them, in return for a lesser prison term. He is now scheduled to be sentenced on July 12.

Hinks, and his partner, Dennis Berard, were accused of flooding the Falls with cocaine and pot. Local and federal drugs agents said the pair imported between 20 and 30 kilos of marijuana from Canada into the Falls every two weeks. 

At the same time, investigators said, they pumped multiple kilos of Mexican cartel cocaine into the city as well.

It all came to an end in April 2011, when Falls Police narcotics detectives and federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations took the drug ring down with a raid on Hink's hub of operations inside the old Amato's Bar on Ferry Avenue. That raid netted investigators 14 pounds of pot, three-and-a-half kilograms of cocaine and over $64,000 from Hinks and Berard.

A little more than two months later, local narcotics detectives and federal agents arrested six other suspects in Niagara County, a suspected cocaine supplier from Buffalo and two marijuana suppliers in the Massena, N.Y. area.

As a result of those arrests and raids, officers and agents seized marijuana and broke up a pot growing operation in a home in the 3200 block of North Avenue, recovering 13 long guns and more than a thousand rounds of ammunition from a home on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation, two handguns from a home in Buffalo and another 13 long guns, including three assault rifles from residences in the Massena area.

The investigation began in October 2009, when "street sources" told Falls narcotics detectives that Hinks had been released from prison on an earlier drug conviction and "was living over the old Amato’s Bar (2007 Ferry Ave.) and dealing coke and marijuana."

Federal agents got involved when Falls police investigators discovered Hinks and Berard where actually smuggling their marijuana in from Canada and their cocaine from South American through Mexico.

As part of his plea agreement, Hinks also agreed to forfeit $774,000 in cash and property seized during the course of the investigation. Arcara signed an order, on March 7, directing that federal authorities take control of that cash and property.