Drug Enforcement Administration

New York

Acting Special Agent in Charge Keith Kruskall , Special Agent in Charge

May 17, 2017

Contact: Erin Mulvey

Phone Number: (212) 337-3900

Major Illegal Narcotics Ring Dismantled In Elmira, Four Defendants Arrested

Manufactured and Sold Fentanyl Pills

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -   - Robert Ian Thatcher, 29, Maximillian Sams, 30, Dwayne Banks, 29, all of Elmira, New York, and Carlito Rios, Jr., 30, of Beaver Dams, New York, were each charged today with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, quantities of furanyl fentanyl and U-47700, both Schedule I controlled substances.   

James J. Hunt, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement (DEA), New York Division and Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced their arrest and charging by criminal complaint with operating an illegal narcotics trafficking ring in the Elmira, New York. area.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and $1,000,000 fine. In addition to the conspiracy charge, defendants Thatcher and Sams were also charged with possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, which carries a mandatory minimum consecutive term of five years in prison up to life. Further, defendant Banks is charged with possessing with intent to distribute, and distributing, furanyl fentanyl and U-47700, which also carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett A. Harvey, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, between November 29, 2016, and May 16, 2017, the defendants manufactured and distributed tens of thousands of tablets containing furanyl fentanyl to street-level customers in the greater Elmira area. The drugs were stored at a residence in Sayre, Pennsylvania.

During the search warrants, officers seized over 200 blue pills suspected to contain the substances described above; seven firearms and ammunition; a bulletproof vest; blue food coloring; and blue powder. In addition, officers seized multiple containers with false bottoms, which were used to conceal drugs.  

“The most dangerous drug facing the nation today is fentanyl,” said Hunt.  “Its unregulated potency can kill, especially when it is clandestinely pressed into pill form and sold on the street for profit. This investigation successfully dismantled the largest fentanyl pill mill in New York which was responsible for supplying counties in Pennsylvania, New York and as far south as North Carolina with what they called ‘super pills’ leaving  overdose victims in its wake.”   

“Overdose deaths in the Western District of New York are soaring, and in many instances, toxicology reports are indicating that the killer is fentanyl,” said Kennedy.  “Under federal law, if it can be proven that the drugs someone distributed resulted in the death of another, then the distributor can be held criminally liable for the death of the user. Using all of the federal, state, and local resources available to us, we intend thoroughly to examine the evidence in this case to see whether we can establish such a link between the drugs these individuals distributed and any overdose deaths in the region.”

“These synthetic opioids have potentially deadly consequences for both users as well as law enforcement officials who come in to contact with them,” said Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security (ICE-HIS) Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero. “Given the highly-toxic nature of these synthetic opioids, even a small seizure could potentially save a life. As today’s arrests clearly demonstrate, HSI and our partners are committed to protecting public safety, using our unique customs authorities to keep this dangerous substance out of our communities.”

“This investigation illustrates the dangerous intersection between narcotics and illegal firearms, and demonstrates the importance of law enforcement partnerships in addressing the trafficking of opioids and other dangerous drugs into our communities,” added ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Ashan Benedict.  “I'd like to extend my gratitude to the men and women of ATF, DEA, HSI, the New York State Police, the Elmira Police Department, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for their outstanding work in ensuring the arrests of these individuals who will now face justice for their actions.”

 “We are proud to work with our federal and local law enforcement partners to take down an operation that threatens our community,” said New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II. “Fentanyl is dangerous and deadly. This arrest not only puts an operation out of business also seized dangerous weapons, taking them off our streets. I applaud the good police work that brought this case to a close and helped to make a community safer.”

The complaint is the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Rochester Resident Office and Scranton Resident Office; the New York State Police; the Elmira Police Department; Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Pennsylvania State Police; the Chemung County Sheriff’s Office; the Iredell, North Carolina. County Sheriff’s Office and Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Unit. Additional assistance was provided by the DEA’s Northeast Regional Laboratory.

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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