12-Person Cocaine Trafficking Ring Dismantled
Defendants Charged with Trafficking Cocaine from Puerto Rico to Western New York
NEW YORK – Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York Division and New York Attorney General Letitia James announced today the arrests of 12 individuals for their roles in a drug trafficking operation that transported cocaine from Puerto Rico to Buffalo and other areas of Western New York. As outlined in the 155-count indictment, the investigation led to the seizure of approximately 7.5 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of more than $500,000, as well as more than $123,000 in cash.
The year-long investigation — code-named “Operation Cataracts” — brought together the resources of state, federal, and local law enforcement agents led by Attorney General James’ Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF), in partnership with the DEA’s Buffalo District Office, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Niagara Falls Police Department, and the Erie County Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit. The investigation included covert surveillance and hundreds of hours of wiretaps.
Investigators discovered that kilograms of cocaine were being mailed from Puerto Rico to members of this drug ring in various locations throughout Western New York. The cocaine was then delivered to others to process and sell, and cash proceeds were sent back to Puerto Rico.
Approximately four kilograms of cocaine were seized from packages mailed from Puerto Rico to various locations in Buffalo, and investigators also seized a package containing approximately $38,290 that Felix DeLeon Ortiz attempted to send to a supplier in Puerto Rico.
As alleged in the indictment, the central figure in the trafficking network, Joel Calderon, bought and sold cocaine to numerous individuals in the region. Calderon primarily purchased cocaine from Rafael Martinez, but when Martinez did not have supplies, he also bought it from another Buffalo resident, Jose Torres a/k/a “Smokey.” Calderon then sold cocaine to Shawn Armstrong and numerous other resellers.
Wiretaps captured numerous conversations between Armstrong, Martinez, Calderon, Torres, and others as they ordered quantities of cocaine and made arrangements for the delivery of the narcotics for resale. Calderon, Martinez, and Torres are all charged as Operating as a Major Trafficker, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.
“By removing the head of this organization, we have effectively clogged a major artery supplying upstate New York with illegal drugs,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Donovan. “These major traffickers were coordinating large shipments of cocaine, sent from Puerto Rico to New York, for further resale in our communities. DEA cocaine seizures in New York increased 300 percent from 2020 to 2021, and we know that a common trade among dealers is mixing fentanyl and cocaine, which is causing overdoses and death. I applaud the investigators and prosecutors on their diligent work throughout this investigation, which will no doubt save lives.”
“Drug trafficking rings put all of our communities in harm’s way, and today’s takedown is our latest effort to keep New Yorkers safe,” said Attorney General James. “These individuals allegedly trafficked more than $500,000 worth of cocaine from Puerto Rico and other areas onto New York streets, and it came at the expense of public safety. My office will continue to hold accountable anyone who violates the law, and I thank our partners in law enforcement for their invaluable support and commitment in this effort.”
“This indictment and the arrests this morning are a significant victory in the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s efforts to combat drug trafficking and violent crime,” said Acting Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division, Joshua McCallister. “The relentless efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies have put a major supplier of cocaine to Western New York out of business. Postal Inspectors will continue to investigate and seek prosecution of those who disregard our laws and smuggle drugs into our communities. The arrests of these individuals demonstrates our commitment to keeping these and other highly addictive drugs from destroying lives.”
The 155-count indictment — unsealed today in Erie County Court — charges the 12 individuals with various crimes in relation to their involvement in the narcotics trafficking operation, including Operating as a Major Trafficker, and various counts of Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (class A and B felonies), as well as Conspiracy in the Second Degree (class B felony).
Those charged in today’s unsealed indictment include:
Shawn Armstrong, 47 years old, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Joel Calderon, 32 years old, Buffalo, N.Y.
Felix DeLeon Ortiz, 26 years old, Buffalo, N.Y.
Daniel Dublino, 67 years old, Buffalo, N.Y.
Corey Floyd, 47 years old, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Christopher Hanaka, 28 years old, Buffalo, N.Y.
Rafael Martinez, 34 years old, Buffalo, N.Y.
Gregory Pryor, 35 years old, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Edwin Rivera, 37 years old, Buffalo, N.Y.
Kevin Sanchez Bayala, 23 years old, Buffalo, N.Y.
Marshone Spigner, 31 years old, Buffalo, N.Y.
Jose Torres, a/k/a “Smokey”, 31 years old, Buffalo, N.Y.
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.
In addition to the listed partners, Attorney General James would like to thank Erie County District Attorney John Flynn for his office's assistance in this investigation.
The investigation was directed by agents of the DEA’s Buffalo District Office, U.S. Postal Inspector Investigator Brendan Jaffe, and OCTF Detective Thomas Fournier, under the supervision of OCTF Supervising Detective Peter J. Talty and OCTF Deputy Chief Investigator John McManus. The Office of the Attorney General’s Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Investigator Oliver Pu-Folkes.
The cases are being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General Wendy R. Whiting, under the supervision of OCTF Upstate Deputy Chief Maria Moran. Nicole Keary is the Deputy Attorney General in Charge of OCTF. Both the Investigations Bureau and OCTF are part of the Division for Criminal Justice. The Division for Criminal Justice is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado, and is overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.