Buffalo cop charged with running pot operation

May 31, 2012

The Buffalo Police Department has fired one of its own after an arrest this morning by federal law enforcement officials. 

U.S. Attorney William Hochul said former police officer Jorge Melendez, 41, is charged with running a drug manufacturing business out of two warehouses in South Buffalo. Agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI arrested Melendez at Police Headquarters. 

Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda says he is disgusted with the arrest and called it "disturbing on many levels."  Derenda says Melendez "made admissions" and was terminated immediately. 

"[I have] no sympathy for him. The hard-working men and women of the Buffalo Police Department have no sympathy for him. This morning, Mayor Brown really wanted me to push to remove him and I agreed with him. [After] speaking with legal, he was terminated," Derenda said.

Federal investigators seized more than 1,000 marijuana plants, 30 pounds packaged for delivery, various weapons, and a large amount of cash. A man named Jason Elardo,42, was also charged in the case.

Surveillance cameras observed Elardo entering the warehouse on a daily basis to tend to the growing operation. Officers also obtained credit card information indicating that Elardo purchased equipment used to sustain an indoor, hydroponic marijuana grow operation, including a dehumidifier and filters.     

Accoring to the U.S Attorney's Office, at one point during the investigation, officers observed a police badge and credentials belonging to Melendez inside the warehouse. According to the Complaint, Melendez claimed to have previously lost the badge and identification.   

Both men are scheduled to appear in federal court Friday. The charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, a maximum of 40 years, a fine of $4,000,000 or both.