Two years of investigation and nearly a dozen search warrants in Buffalo and adjacent communities have led to a major drug bust and four arrests, including former University at Buffalo basketball star Rodney Pierce.
Authorities say the investigation turned up lethal fentanyl, guns and $750,000 in cash. Addresses searched included 79 Brunswick Boulevard, 2896 Bailey Avenue, 73 Rogers Avenue and 69 Bennett Village Terrace.
At a news conference Tuesday, Erie County Sheriff's Office Narcotics and Intelligence Chief D. J. Granville said they also found hidden stash rooms.
"These traps that we have come across in recent years are extremely hard to find. In particular, in this case, there was a staircase that was electronically wired that we were able to pry open and discover a quantity of U.S. currency and drugs," Granville said.
One room was said to be so large it was used to cut drugs with other substances for sale.
Cops said the quantity of drugs and cash found suggest the four people arrested were very high on the food chain of suppliers to the local drug scene.
"Over 7 1/2 kilograms of cocaine and crack cocaine were seized [and] over two kilograms of deadly fentanyl. Remember, 2-3 milligrams of fentanyl can be a lethal dose. So that's enough fentanyl basically to wipe out all of the population of Erie County," said U.S. Attorney James Kennedy. "Twelve illegal firearms. Over three-quarters of a million dollars in United States currency, along with extensive drug paraphernalia."
Sheriff Tim Howard said the public is familiar with some of the risks from fentanyl. Buffalo Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said search teams are careful in those searches.
"They plan these operations out in advance. They know the most direct routes to the hospitals. They have Narcan available. It's a lot of training. They have the equipment and a lot of training and they are the utmost professionals when they handle these entries," Gramaglia said. "And the same thing with the investigators that come and do the searching after. They're familiar with the dangers that exist and they account for that."
One of the four suspects was in Los Angeles Tuesday and made his first court appearance there, as law enforcement announced their bust in Buffalo.