Eight Defendants Arrested In Drug Conspiracy That Stretched From WNY To Puerto Rico
CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX #: (716) 551-3051
Buffalo, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that eight defendants have been arrested and charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, heroin and fentanyl which carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life in prison and a $10,000,000 fine.
Named in the indictment are:
• Felix Calderon-Valcarcel, 28 of Lackawanna, NY;
• Annette Lugo Rodriguez, 39 of San Juan, Puerto Rico;
• Vivian Pintado-Figueroa, 40 of San Juan, Puerto Rico;
• Wilmer Casiano-Perez, 25 of Lackawanna, NY;
• Yarimar Berrios Alvarado, 24 of Lackawanna, NY;
• Lavon Parks, 28 of Niagara Falls, NY;
• James C. Parks, 55 of Niagara Falls, NY; and
• Wayne E. Paye, of Niagara Falls, NY.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura A. Higgins, who is handling the case, stated that according to the indictment, the defendants participated in a narcotics conspiracy responsible for distributing cocaine, heroin and fentanyl in the Western New York area. The conspiracy received bulk quantities of cocaine from suppliers in Puerto Rico via the United States Postal Service.
On May 26, 2017, a USPS postal inspector identified a suspicious postal parcel being mailed by Lavon Parks from a post office in San Juan to an address in Niagara Falls, NY. On May 31, 2017, a federal search warrant was executed on the suspicious parcel, which contained a kilogram of cocaine wrapped into a brick and concealed within a toaster oven.
On November 30, 2017, Lavon Parks, James Parks, and Wayne Payne were traveling on Interstate 40 in Hickman County, Tennessee. A law enforcement officer pulled the vehicle over after witnessing it commit several traffic infractions. James Parks, who was driving, was questioned outside the vehicle away from the passengers. He stated that he was heading back to Niagara Falls from Pensacola, Florida where they were visiting for a conference. The officer noted the unlikelihood that this was true given their location at least 50 miles west of Nashville, well off the route they would take if coming from Florida. At a later point during the traffic stop, James Parks stated that he had actually travelled from Florida to Houston to pick up Lavon Parks and Wayne Payne after they had called him for a ride. The rental car agreement was produced from the glove compartment and confirmed that James Parks rented the vehicle on November 17, 2017, in Buffalo.
The officers also spoke with the passengers. Wayne Payne stated that they were heading back to Niagara Falls, NY from Houston, TX after a visit to “setup a landscaping business.” Payne stated they were only in Houston for “a few hours; like a day or two.” Lavon Parks told the officer they were traveling from Houston to Niagara Falls and had stayed at the Hilton hotel.
A search of the vehicle recovered three-and-a-half kilograms of cocaine in four packages wrapped with plastic and duct tape concealed in the spare tire area underneath a cover. All three men disclaimed knowledge and ownership of the cocaine. When the packages were opened, officers located two smaller baggies containing crack cocaine.
Between July 2018 and February 2019, the investigation has seized approximately 10 ½ kilos of cocaine and $52,000 in U.S. currency from parcels shipped in the USPS mail between Puerto Rico and different states in the U.S. (including New York, Florida, Alaska, Georgia, and Pennsylvania). Additionally, the investigation conducted sneak and peek searches of parcels containing U.S. currency and money orders totaling $55,700.
Annette Rodriguez Lugo and Vivian Pintado-Figueroa are Puerto Rico-based co-conspirators responsible for shipping bulk quantities of cocaine in the US mail and receiving payments in the form of money orders or U.S. currency in exchange for the cocaine supplied.
On March 26, 2019, Felix Calderon-Valcarcel was observed travelling from his residence at 179 East Abbott Grove in Orchard Park in a rental vehicle to a suspected drug transaction. After the vehicle pulled over, investigators approached and observed Calderon-Valcarcel seated in the driver seat counting approximately $10,000 of U.S. currency. A search of the trunk of the rental vehicle resulted in the recovery of a plastic-wrapped kilogram of cocaine. Subsequently a search warrant was executed at the residence where Felix Calderon-Valcarcel resides with Yarimar Berrios Alvarado. Investigators located a large shipping box in the basement, which was found to contain four plastic-wrapped kilograms of cocaine identical to that recovered from the trunk of the vehicle. A 9 mm firearm was seized from the master bedroom, loaded with a magazine containing 10 rounds of ammunition.
The indictment is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Boston Division Inspector-in-Charge Joseph W. Cronin; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge John B. Devito, New York Field Division; The Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Ray Donovan, New York Field Division; the Orchard Park Police Department, under the direction of Chief E. Joseph Wehrfritz; the Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Byron Lockwood; the Lackawanna Police Department, under the direction of Chief James Michel; the Hamburg Police Department, under the direction of Chief Gregory Wickett; and the Niagara Falls Police Department, under the direction of Superintendent Thomas Licata. Additional assistance was provided by the DEA in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
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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