Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 2, 2013

Man sentenced for role in local drug ring

Niagara Gazette — The supplier of a large cocaine trafficking operation spanning Erie and Niagara counties was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in federal prison.

Keith Simmons, 35, of Tonawanda, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Buffalo for his role in the operation, which was broken up in a series of raids in 2009. He was among 21 defendants arrested for various participation in the group, which dealt chiefly in cocaine. All have been convicted.

Prosecutors say Simmons distributed at least 50 kilograms of cocaine from 2004 to the date of his arrest in July 2009.

He and other members of the ring sold cocaine at locations including Papa Joe's Restaurant on Niagara Falls Boulevard and J.T. Wheatfield's Bar and Restaurant on Ward Road in Wheatfield.

The two restaurant owners, Joseph Tomasino, 45, of the Town of Tonawanda and Stephen Catone, 42, of Wheatfield, each pleaded guilty  to trafficking as part of a 2010 plea agreement with federal prosecutors.  

According to the terms of the agreement, Catone and Tomasino admitted they stored, distributed and used cocaine during business hours from early to mid 2009 at the bars and restaurants they owned.

Prosecutors say the two men obtained the cocaine from Simmons, who originally pleaded guilty in 2010 to a felony count of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise. At the time, he had faced a minimum prison sentence of 20 years. 

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