Drug Enforcement Administration

New York

Raymond P. Donovan, Special Agent in Charge

February 24, 2017

Contact: Erin Mulvey

Phone Number: (212) 337-2906

Nine Million Dollars’ Worth Of Cocaine Seized In Buffalo, N.Y.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -   - Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt, U.S. Drug Enforcement (DEA), New York Division and Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that James Wilkie, Remus Nowak, and Fernando Rodriguez, of Buffalo, were arrested and charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and distribute over five kilograms or more of cocaine. The charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life and a $10,000,000 fine.  

“Coordination was the key element throughout this two-day enforcement operation,” said Hunt. “The objective to identify those responsible for trying to bring nine million dollars’ worth of drugs into Buffalo was met, resulting in 48 kilograms of cocaine being taken off the streets.”

“Though we may be over 2,000 miles away from the Mexican Border, this case illustrates that the threat associated by the illegal flow of controlled substances over that border is very real even here in Western New York,” stated Kennedy.  “The misery associated with the lives harmed by drugs flowing across the Southwest Border extends across the entire United States. We will remain vigilant in our effort to stem that flow at every point along away.”

Assistant U. S. Attorney Joel L. Violanti, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, in February, 2017, the Drug Enforcement Administration received information regarding the drug trafficking activities of the defendants. DEA agents identified Wilkie, Nowak and Rodriguez as members of a large scale cocaine distribution organization with direct connections to Mexico.

Cocaine was smuggled into the United States from Mexico and eventually brought to Arizona and then distributed throughout the United States by various members of the organization. The complaint states that Wilkie picked up many kilograms of cocaine in Arizona and transported it to Buffalo on a number of occasions. Once, in Buffalo, Wilkie would give the cocaine to Nowak, who, in turn, would provide it to Rodriguez, for distribution throughout the city. Once distributed, the proceeds of the sale would be collected by Rodriguez and Nowak who would provide the money to Wilkie so that he could return it to the Mexican source.

On February 22, 2017, Wilkie was stopped by the Illinois State Police in Collinsville, Ill. for driving with an obstructed license plate. A subsequent search of the vehicle revealed that it contained 48 kilograms of cocaine. 30 kilograms were contained in a suitcase, while 18 kilograms were discovered in a duffel bag.  Wilkie was arrested by the state police.  A subsequent investigation revealed that the 18 kilograms were destined for Buffalo, while the remaining 30 kilograms were destined for Chicago.

On February 23, 2017, a controlled delivery of 18 kilograms of “sham” cocaine was made by Wilkie to Nowak at a local hotel. During their meeting, Wilkie and Nowak discussed, among other things, Nowak's ongoing relationship with the Mexican cocaine source of supply. At one point during the conversation, Wilkie opened the duffel bag to expose the 18 kilograms of “sham” cocaine. Following the conversation, Nowak took possession of the duffel bag containing the 18 kilograms of “sham” cocaine and exited the hotel room. As he exited the motel, Nowak was arrested by DEA agents.

Following that arrest, arrangements were made for Nowak to deliver the cocaine to defendant Rodriguez at an automotive shop on Kenmore Avenue in Tonawanda, New York.  Once again, drug related conversation preceded the transfer of the 18 kilograms of “sham” cocaine from Nowak to Rodriguez.  Rodriguez was arrested in possession of the duffle bag.  

The complaint is the result of an investigation by the DEA New York Division, DEA Fairview Heights, Ill. Resident Office, DEA Tucson, Ariz. District Office and Homeland Security Investigations. Additional assistance was provided by the Erie County Sheriff's Office, the Buffalo Police Department, the Niagara County Sheriff's Office, the Niagara Falls Police Department, New York State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team, the Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Department, the Niagara Frontier Transit Authority Police Department, the Hamburg Police Department, the Lackawanna Police Department, U.S. Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine unit, and the Cheektowaga Police Department.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.   

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