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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, July 29, 2016

Jury Convicts Mother, Two Sons In Drug Trafficking Case; Sons Also Convicted Of Murder

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

ROCHESTER, N.Y.--U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that a federal jury has convicted James Kendrick, his brother, Pablo "Paul" Plaza, and their mother Janine Plaza-Pierce of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute large quantities of illegal narcotics. In addition, Kendrick was found guilty of the murders of Francisco Santos and Ryan Cooper. Plaza was also found guilty of the murder of Santos. Pierce was acquitted in the murder of Santos.

“Regardless of how violent the criminals - and these defendants were among the worst - federal law provides effective tools by which to remove predators and protect the public,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “At the same time, solving crimes in which the victims were dismembered and years had elapsed requires extraordinary professional skill and dedication. The entire community is rightly proud of the work of our federal ATF agents and local police departments, including RPD, and from this Office, Assistant United States Attorneys Everardo Rodriquez and Melissa Marangola.”

When sentenced, defendants Kendrick and Plaza face life in prison, Pierce faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Everardo A. Rodriguez and Melissa M. Marangola, who handled the prosecution of the case, stated that Kendrick and his brother Plaza spearheaded a long term, violent narcotics trafficking ring in the City of Rochester between 1993, through and including March 2011. To protect the conspiracy and its members from other drug dealers and those deemed to be disloyal workers, Kendrick, Plaza and others in the conspiracy resorted to violence including beatings and murder.  

Specifically, Francisco Santos, a/k/a “Cisco,” was murdered in October 1998. Santos’ body was found in May 1999 buried on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in Erie County. Santos was a worker for Kendrick and Plaza and was murdered because the defendants believed he betrayed the organization by stealing drugs, cash and guns. Kendrick and Plaza initially retaliated by conducting a drive by shooting at the residence of Santos’ father, step-mother and sisters, who were four and six years old at the time.

Ryan Cooper, a/k/a “Chewey,” was murdered in late May 1999. Cooper was a cousin of the defendants. Kendrick murdered Cooper because he feared Cooper would go to police about what he knew about the murder of Francisco Santos. Rather than bury the body of Cooper as they buried Santos, Kendrick chose to dismember Cooper’s body and spread the parts around the Rochester area. While none of Cooper’s remains have ever been found, three trained cadaver dogs from the Rhode Island State Police independently alerted to a location behind the athletic field of a school in Rochester next to railroad tracks. Government witnesses testified that this was the same location where parts of Cooper’s body had been disposed.       

During the trial, the Government also presented evidence of additional acts of violence including shootings the murder of Jose Troche on January 14, 2010. The Government’s proof established that Kendrick and Plaza planned and executed the murder of Troche because they feared that Troche, also a member of the conspiracy, was planning to cooperate in the prosecution of the defendants. In connection with the Troche murder, Kendrick and Plaza decided that Kendrick would go to a local supermarket and be seen on camera at the time of Troche’s. 

ATF Special Agent in Charge Delano A. Reid said, “These violent drug dealers spread fear, intimidation, mayhem, and in the Rochester area for almost two decades, leaving death in their wake. Their conviction for trafficking in narcotics, using firearms, and committing homicide means that they will enjoy lengthy prison sentences in a Federal penitentiary as a just reward for their crimes. We hope that these convictions help to make the community safer and bring some solace to the families of their victims.  To those gang members out there who think that crime and violence are the path forward, consider this a warning that we in law enforcement are ready for you, and you may be the next target for investigation and prosecution. We would like to extend our gratitude to the United States Attorney’s Office for their dedication to this investigation and their perseverance during a lengthy trial. I would like to extend a special thanks to our law enforcement partners, and the members of ATF and the Rochester Police Department who serve on our Rochester Violent Crime Task Force, who work hard every day to make Rochester a safer place to live.”

Nine other defendants involved in the drug conspiracy were charged and convicted.

The verdict is based on a joint investigation consisting of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Delano A. Reid, Special Agent in Charge, New York Field Division, and the Rochester Police Department, Violent Crime Team/Firearms Suppression Unit, under the direction of Chief Michael Ciminelli. 

Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date before Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr. who presided over the trial. 

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UPDATE:

Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr. this afternoon granted a request by the attorney for defendant Janine Plaza Pierce to set aside the jury’s guilty verdict on the charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute large quantities of illegal narcotics. The judge also set aside the jury’s guilty verdict involving a charge of possession with intent to distribute heroin at 87 Thomas St. in Rochester against Pablo Plaza.

Updated August 2, 2016