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AG announces major drug bust in Rochester

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, at his Rochester Regional Office on Wednesday, makes an announcement regarding the arrest and indictment of major drug traffickers in Western New York. Vasiliy Baziuk

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on Wednesday announced the arrests of 28 individuals on 38 counts, as an indictment was unsealed in Monroe County Supreme Court. The bust is the result of a multi-agency cocaine drug investigation code-named “Operation Snowbird” for its Florida-to-Rochester delivery system.

Schneiderman made the announcement at the New York Attorney General’s Rochester Regional Office on Exchange Street on Wednesday afternoon. He said it’s the biggest bust in 15 years for the office, and the biggest drug bust in Rochester in 10 years.

“This is a good day for justice in Rochester and for the state of New York,” he told media and law enforcement representatives. “This enterprise was bringing in over $1 million of cocaine into the Rochester community every month, and that is why we’re able to charge [the organizational leaders] with the drug kingpin statute.”

As a legislator, Schneiderman helped author the kingpin statute, used to prosecute large volume drug dealers. Conviction of the statute can carry a life sentence. However the heart of the indictment, as Schneiderman explained, is conspiracy to operate as a major trafficker.

Estanislao Martinez

The alleged leader of the operation was identified as Estanislao (Kiki) Martinez, 48, of Albion, N.Y. The bust conducted early Wednesday morning netted over 35 kilos of cocaine worth over $2.7 million, $750,000 in cash, eight handguns and five vehicles with hidden compartments used to transport the drugs.

“This was a very sophisticated operation transporting a large quantity of drugs in concealed compartments over long distances from Florida to New York City to Rochester,” Schneiderman said.

The state attorney general, Rochester Police Chief James M. Sheppard and New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said the cocaine was distributed at a variety of locations throughout the city.

“At one location in northeast Rochester, our investigators described it as looking like a fast food drive-through much like a Wendy’s,” Schneiderman said. “Most of it was spoken for when the drugs arrived. It was going to customers of all parts of the community: all races, all classes, all neighborhoods.”

“Operation Snowbird” resulted in the seizure of 34 kilos of cocaine, with a street value of $2.7 million, according to police, eight guns and five cars. The drugs were brought from Florida to New York City and then to Rochester. These items were seen during a press conference at Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s Rochester regional office on Wednesday. Vasiliy Baziuk

Agencies participating in the investigation, which began early in the year, included: the Greater Rochester Area Narcotics Enforcement Team, the Community Narcotics Enforcement Teams and Special Investigations Units of the New York State Police, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, and the National Guard.

D’Amico said the sophisticated enterprise utilized license plates bearing a military affiliation to avoid arousing the suspicion of law enforcement during transportation. However, Schneiderman said a New York state trooper became suspicious of a large gas can in the trunk of one of the vehicles. This led to the discovery of hidden compartments in the gas tank area.

Schneiderman said there will be attempts by others to step in and sell the drugs that used to flow into the city.

“It will be a long time before anyone can set up an operation like that,” he said. “Hopefully, it’ll never happen.”