Drug Enforcement Administration

New York

James J. Hunt, Special Agent in Charge

July 14, 2017

Contact: Erin Mulvey

Phone Number: (212) 337-3900

Witness Retaliation Conviction For 2 Latin Kings Gang Members

Result of a DEA-led investigation: charge carries maximum sentence of life

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that, following a week-long trial, a federal jury has convicted Jose Escalera, a/k/a Tank, 41, of Buffalo, NY, and Giovanni Cotto, a/k/a Monte, 36, of Springfield, Massachusetts, of retaliating against a witness. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael P. Felicetta and Meghan A. Tokash, who handled the prosecution of the case, stated that in 2014, the defendants ordered the assault of a witness testifying for the Government at a federal trial that involved a murder. One of the defendants in that case was a member of the Latin Kings Gang. Escalera and Cotto, also members of the Latin Kings Gang, ordered the assault against the witness for testifying against their Latin King brother.

Back in 2014, the witness, after completing three days of testimony, was returned to the Cattaraugus County Jail where he was being detained. The following day, while in the recreation yard at the jail, the witness was viciously assaulted. The assault included multiple contusions and a broken jaw. The injuries resulted in the witness undergoing surgery and having his jaw wired shut, preventing him from completing his testimony for several weeks.

Evidence presented by the Government included the testimony of the assailant who was also charged and convicted for his role in the assault.  The verdict is the result of an investigation by the DEA under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt, New York Field Division, and the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Department, under the direction of Sheriff Timothy Whitcomb.

Escalera is scheduled to be sentenced on October 18, 2017, at 12:30 p.m. before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara, who presided over the trial of the case. Cotto will be sentenced on October 20, 2017, at 12:30 p.m.

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