Buffalo, NY – Drugs that originated from the jungles of Columbia were distributed in Western New York. The leader of the US Drug Enforcement Administration appeared in Buffalo Thursday to announce results of an international drug bust.
"Operation DeJa Vu" actually began in the Summer of 2002 in Buffalo. Acting DEA Administrator John Brown appeared at Buffalo Police headquarters. He says cocaine and heroin from Columbia were hidden in compartments of vehicles and smuggled into the United States.
"From go-fast operations off the north shore of Columbia into some of the islands in the Caribbean ending up in Puerto Rico. From Puerto Rico into the Northeast United States and to large scale operations in the New York City area. We began an investigation of those who were transporting it to Western New York in huge volumes," Brown said.
A total of 67 suspects were arrested and charged. Anthony Placido, special agent in charge of the DEA for all of New York State, says 27 of the suspects were arrested in Buffalo.
"It was a major international narcotics investigation," Placido said. "I would venture to say it was the most significant counter drug operation ever in the history of Western New York."
Authorities say many of these suspects are "very violent." Weapons were seized in the raids. Buffalo Police Commissioner Rocco Diina says he believes the drug dealers are linked to a violent street gang operating in the city.
"The Del Luiza group is suspects in at least one homicide that is still under investigation," Diina said. "In addition, there has been several acts of violence that we feel are related to this specific group."
The DEA says the investigation will continue and more arrests are expected. US Attorney Michael Battle says charges against the suspects carry a minimum of ten years in prison, and in some cases 20 years to life.
Authorities say that should keep these drug dealers off the streets for a very long time.