BUFFALO - A Niagara Falls man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to his role in what prosecutors described as a drug trafficking organization that focused on the Falls and Buffalo.
U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced that Devincio K.D. James, 30, of Niagara Falls, and Jenhsen Rodriguez, 33, of Buffalo, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, 500 grams or more of cocaine during a court appearance in front of U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo.
Both men face a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum of 40 years, and a fine of $5 million.
In addition, prosecutors said Luis Andino, 33, also of Buffalo, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. He faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life in prison and a fine of $10 million.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura A. Higgins, who is handling the case, stated that between July 2017 and September 29, 2017, the defendants conspired with others to distribute cocaine in the Niagara Falls area for a drug trafficking organization led by co-defendant Cesar Rivera-Figueroa.
Prosecutors said James was a mid-level distributor of cocaine for Rivera-Figueroa. James picked up the cocaine from either Rivera-Figueroa or another co-defendant, then sold it in Niagara Falls. On Sept. 29, 2017, James was arrested inside his residence at 1080 99th St. in Niagara Falls. Investigators searched the residence and recovered about $29,260 in U.S. currency, a loaded 20 gauge shotgun, 23 live 20 gauge shotgun shells and five digital scales.
Prosecutor's say one of Andino’s roles was to assist Rivera-Figueroa by recruiting individuals to provide addresses where packages containing cocaine could be shipped, picking up packages containing cocaine shipped from Puerto Rico, making deliveries of cocaine to customers, and making trips to New York City to transport money and cocaine for the organization. Between June 15 and July 13, 2017, Andino recruited individuals in the Buffalo area to supply at least nine addresses for use by the organization to ship packages of cocaine from Puerto Rico to Buffalo. Andino was paid $100 per address by the Rivera-Figueroa organization. The addressee was then paid $500 per package received by the Rivera-Figueroa organization. When packages were delivered to the recruited recipients, Andino would retrieve the cocaine from the recipient address and transport it back to a stash house where it would then be distributed. During the course of the conspiracy, several packages containing cocaine were intercepted by the United States Postal Inspection Service.
Rodriguez was also a mid-level distributor of cocaine for Rivera-Figueroa. On Sept. 13, 2017, Rodriguez traveled with a co-defendant to New York City to deliver proceeds of drug trafficking as payment for a quantity of controlled substances.
On Sept. 21, 2017, intercepted communications revealed that the Rivera-Figueroa organization expected to receive three postal parcels containing bulk quantities of cocaine that day. Rodriguez agreed to keep watch and take delivery of one of those three parcels destined for a residence on Tonawanda Street in Buffalo. The U.S. Postal Service intercepted two of the three parcels, including the parcel destined for Tonawanda Street.
On Sept. 29, 2017, investigators executed a federal search warrant at Rodriguez’s residence at 42 Wiley Place. Multiple items were seized including a loaded .22 caliber rifle, roughly 100 rounds of .22 caliber ammunition, $10,115.00 in U.S. currency, a quantity of heroin and cocaine, two 2 scales; and drug packaging materials.
Rodriguez admits that he possessed the firearm in furtherance of his drug trafficking activities.
Following his arrest, Rodriguez was released from custody on Oct. 4, 2017. On Dec. 29, 2018, he was stopped in a vehicle traveling westbound on State Route 17 in Middletown, New York by State Police troopers for committing vehicle and traffic infractions. When questioned by the trooper, Rodriguez was traveling to New York City to pick up heroin to bring back to Buffalo for distribution.
A total of 12 defendants were charged and convicted in the case.
The pleas are the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Safe Streets Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert; the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Ray Donovan, New York Field Division; the Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Byron Lockwood; and the New York State Police, under the direction of Major Edward Kennedy.
James is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 31, 2020. Andino is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 24, 2020. Rodriguez is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 17, 2020, all before Judge Vilardo.