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Press Release

Buffalo Public School Teacher Faces Up To Life In Prison After Pleading Guilty To Selling Marijuana And Possessing Firearms In Furtherance Of His Drug Trafficking Activities

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of New York

CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX #: (716) 551-3051

BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Michael Masecchia, 54, of Williamsville, NY, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge John L. Sinatra, Jr. to possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes. The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum of life, and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph M. Tripi and Brendan T. Cullinane, who are handling the case, stated that since at least 1999 through his arrest on August 23, 2019, the defendant was involved in the sale of marijuana in the Buffalo and its surrounding suburbs. Masecchia and others also participated in marijuana grow operations in Ellicottville and Franklinville, in Cattaraugus County, NY.  The marijuana grown at those operations was harvested and distributed to resellers and users. In addition, the defendant possessed firearms to protect himself, his proceeds, and property where he stored marijuana and currency.

As part of his written plea agreement, Masecchia admitted that he received sensitive law enforcement information from his co-defendant Joseph Bongiovanni, who worked as a Special Agent of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration in Buffalo.  The information Masecchia received included the names of potential cooperators and whether or not the defendant and others were under federal investigation, and such information helped Masecchia and others to continue selling marijuana undetected by other members of law enforcement.

On August 23, 2019, a search warrant was executed at the defendant’s Main Street residence. During that search, investigators from Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Erie County Sheriff's Office, and the Niagara County Sheriff's Office, seized:

• $27,950.00 in U.S. currency;
• Two rifles, five shotguns, and a pistol;
• Various ammunition for the firearms;
• Three Mason jars containing marijuana;
• Various steroids in liquid and tablet form;
• Hypodermic needles;
• THC edibles;
• Cannabis syrup;
• Two grams of a white powder suspected to be cocaine;
• Tylenol with Codeine tablets;
• Suspected hashish;
• A digital scale;
• A suspected marijuana cigarette;
• Numerous plastic bags and small bottles containing marijuana; and
• Four cell phones.

Charges remain pending against co-defendant Joseph Bongiovanni. 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.

The plea is the result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia; the Erie County Sheriff's Office, under the direction of Sheriff Timothy Howard; the Niagara County Sheriff's Office, under the direction of Sheriff Michael Filicetti; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, under the direction of John B. Devito.

Sentencing is scheduled for April 8, 2021, at 2:00 p.m. before Judge Sinatra.

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Updated December 9, 2020

Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses