23 Individuals Charged with Moving Significant Amounts of Drugs from Puerto Rico and NYC into Western New York
ERIE COUNTY, NY (STL.News) – New York Attorney General Letitia James and Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Division Friday announced the arrests of 23 people for their roles in two drug trafficking rings operating in New York City and Western New York. In two separate indictments, the 23 individuals are charged with trafficking heroin and cocaine from New York City and Puerto Rico into Western New York, including three individuals charged as Operating as a Major Trafficker, which carries a maximum of life in prison if convicted. During the course of the two investigations, 12 kilos of cocaine and two kilos of heroin with a street value of $1.3 million were recovered.
“Illicit drugs have no place on our streets, in our homes, or being transported through the mail,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “These individuals have been charged with trafficking significant amounts of heroin and cocaine into Western New York, flooding our communities with dangerous drugs and putting New Yorkers in harm’s way. Let this serve as a loud and clear message: Drug trafficking will not be tolerated in New York.”
The two investigations involved state and local law enforcement agents led by the New York State Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF), in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Buffalo Resident Office, the DEA Buffalo Task Force, and the New York State Police Special Investigations Unit. Today’s takedown concluded a 17-month overall investigation into a drug network that was operating across the region.
During these investigations, it was discovered that Reinaldo Martinez, Jr. a/k/a “Gordo” was mailing kilograms of cocaine from Puerto Rico to two separate groups of narcotics traffickers operating in Western New York.
In the first indictment, codenamed “Operation Packages,” the investigation began with Kevin Martinez, who was selling heroin and cocaine from an address on Walden Avenue in Buffalo. Utilizing electronic surveillance, investigators learned that Martinez was having cocaine mailed in packages from Puerto Rico to several addresses in Buffalo. It is alleged that Reinaldo Martinez, Jr. a/k/a/ “Gordo”, Kevin’s cousin, was one of the individuals who mailed kilograms of cocaine from Puerto Rico, to his brother, Gabriel Martinez. It was then sold by Gabriel, Kevin, and other members of the family.
It was also learned that Julio Resto, known as “Benny,” was responsible for obtaining heroin for the group. During the course of the investigation, a vehicle containing a trap which housed two kilograms of heroin, with a street value of more than $400,000, was stopped in Buffalo, just before the drugs were delivered to Resto. Wiretaps captured numerous conversations between Resto and Alvin Santiago Santiago, a New York City-based trafficker who arranged for the transport, regarding the movement of that heroin. In addition, a search was conducted at a residence on Landon Street in Buffalo, which resulted in the recovery of half a kilogram of cocaine, two loaded firearms, and $17,360 in cash.
In the second indictment, codenamed “Operation Transport,” the investigation began with Steven Gonzalez who was selling heroin from several different addresses on the West Side of Buffalo. Using electronic surveillance, investigators learned that Heriberto Rivera was supplying both cocaine and heroin to Steven Gonzalez. Rivera’s heroin source would supply narcotics to Geral Batista and Argely Martinez who would transport heroin from New York City into the Western New York area for delivery to Heriberto and others. Batista and Martinez then collected money to transport back to their New York City source. During the course of the investigation, police seized $82,000 that was secured in a custom-built hidden compartment in the vehicle occupied and driven by both Geral Batista and Argely Martinez.
The investigation of Heriberto Rivera led law enforcement back to Reinaldo Martinez, Jr. a/k/a “Gordo.” It was learned that Reinaldo Martinez, Jr. a/k/a “Gordo” worked with Jose Mendez in the coordination of mailing packages of cocaine from Puerto Rico to various addresses in the Western New York region. Once again keeping this a family affair, one such package was destined for delivery to the Buffalo residence of Reinaldo Martinez, Sr. and Barbara Martinez, the father and mother-in-law of Reinaldo Martinez, Jr. The package intended for delivery to the residence of Reinaldo Martinez, Jr.’s father was intercepted by the U.S. Postal Inspectors and contained 3,005 grams of cocaine or more than 6.6 pounds. Two other packages bound for separate Western New York addresses were intercepted and removed from the mail stream and found to contain 1,989 and 2,006 grams of cocaine. The three packages contained a total of 7,000 grams of cocaine, (7 kilos which is also the equivalent of 15.4 pounds) that were intercepted before they could hit the streets and further endanger the community.
“Cocaine and heroin have been New York’s drugs of choice over the years, but today’s street dealers are making them deadlier with fentanyl, accounting for 60% of all fatal overdoses in America,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan. “This investigation focused on three drug kingpins responsible for supplying the cocaine and heroin foundation to the toxic mixture being sold throughout New York. Through good police work, investigative techniques, and collaboration, 23 drug traffickers are in jail and two major criminal organizations dismantled.”
“Today’s arrests are the result of an aggressive strategy to stop illegal drug trafficking and keep heroin, cocaine and other deadly drugs off our streets,” said New York State Police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett. “Together, with our partners in federal, local and state law enforcement, we have dismantled several dangerous trafficking operations and stopped the infiltration of a large quantity of narcotics into our communities. We will continue to work vigilantly to put dangerous individuals like these criminals behind bars.”
The Attorney General’s indictment relating to “Operation Packages”, which was previously unsealed in Erie County Supreme Court on February 27, 2019, charges the 15 individuals with crimes in relation to their involvement in the narcotics trafficking operation, including Operating as a Major Trafficker and various counts of Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (class A and B felonies), as well as Conspiracy to commit those crimes (class B felony). Of the 15 individuals charged in this indictment, 14 have been arraigned and 10 have pleaded guilty.
Those charged in this indictment include:
- Kevin Martinez, 24 years old;
- Gabriel Martinez Rosa, 29 years old;
- Alvin Santiago Santiago, 36 years old
a/k/a Alexander Eglis Grateral-Duran,
a/k/a Victor Nieves,
a/k/a Julio Cesar Riascoes-Bolanos;
- Reinaldo Martinez, a/k/a “Gordo”, 35 years old;
- Alexander Martinez, 30 years old;
- Luis Martinez Sabater, 59 years old;
- Edgardo Martinez, 55 years old;
- Reynaldo Martinez, 54 years old;
- Danex Martinez, 22 years old;
- Julio Resto, A/K/A “Benny”, 47 years old;
- Michael Pagan, 19 years old;
- Gualbert Alvarez, a/k/a “Luisy”, 23 years old;
- Demario Boler, 40 years old;
- Bryan Garcia, 23 years old; and
- Jorge Rosa Garcia, 32 years old.
The Attorney General’s indictment relating to “Operation Transport”, which was unsealed today in Erie County Supreme Court, charges the eight individuals with crimes in relation to their involvement in the narcotics trafficking operation, including Operating as a Major Trafficker and various counts of Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (class A and B felonies, as well as Conspiracy to commit those crimes (class B felony) and Criminal Facilitation (class C felony).
Those charged in today’s unsealed indictment include:
- Steven Gonzalez, 43 years old,
- Heriberto Rivera, 47 years old,
- Reinaldo Martinez, Jr. a/k/a “Gordo,” 35 years old,
- Jose Mendez, 26 years old,
- Reinaldo Martinez, Sr., a/k/a Reynaldo Martinez, 54 years old,
- Barbara Martinez, 39 years old,
- Geral Batista, 29 years old,
- Argely Martinez, 30 years old.
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.
Today’s takedown is the latest in the Attorney General’s SURGE Initiative (Suburban and Upstate Response to the Growing Epidemic) to root out violent drug trafficking; since launching in 2017, SURGE has taken 529 alleged traffickers off the streets.
The investigation relating to “Operation Packages” was directed by OCTF Special Investigator Daniel Redmond, under the supervision of OCTF Supervising Investigator Peter J. Talty, as well as DEA Buffalo Resident Office Group D-57 of the DEA’s New York Division.
The investigation relating to “Operation Transport” was directed by OCTF Special Investigator Ever Quinones, under the supervision of OCTF Supervising Investigator Peter J. Talty and Assistant Chief John Sullivan, the New York State Police Special Investigations Unit, DEA Buffalo Resident Office Group D-57 of the DEA’s New York Division, and the U.S. Postal Inspector’s Office Investigator Joshua Burch. The Attorney General’s Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Investigator Oliver Pu-Folks.
The cases are being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorneys General Patricia I. Carrington and Wendy R. Whiting, under the supervision of OCTF Deputy Chief Maria Moran. Nicole Keary is the Deputy Attorney General in Charge of the Organized Crime Task Force. The Criminal Justice Division is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado.