Seven Arrested; Charged With Drug Conspiracy and Money Laundering
BUFFALO, N.Y.--U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that a federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Steven Bennett, 42, of Buffalo, N.Y.; Chandra Woods, 29, of Los Angeles, California; Jessica Lopez, 32, of Buffalo, N.Y.; Phillip Keomongkoun, 26, of Buffalo, N.Y.; Malcom Bull, 21, of Jamestown, N.Y.; Nikki Lillard, 49, of Buffalo, N.Y.; and Guy Burt with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, methamphetamine and cocaine, and money laundering conspiracy. The charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, a maximum of 40 years, a $5,000,000 fine or both.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel L. Violanti, who is handling the case, stated that according to the indictment, between July 2012 and January 2013, Steven Bennett was a supplier of methamphetamine and cocaine. The defendant shipped the drugs from California to Buffalo for distribution by his co-defendants. Bennett made numerous trips to Buffalo to coordinate the shipments and further distribute the drugs.
"This investigation focused on a narcotic which is only beginning to be seen in our area and involved an organization that was seeking to create a market for this dangerous drug," said U.S. Attorney Hochul. "The fact that law enforcement was able to conclude this highly successful investigation in such a short period of time is to be commended."
DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian R. Crowell stated, “This organization was attempting to establish a customer base for Mexican methamphetamine and cocaine in the Western New York area – meth use destroys families, communities, and is extremely dangerous to our public. Any organization attempting to traffic meth is one of the top priorities for our task force. Our dedicated task force investigators identified the source of this extremely high purity methamphetamine being distributed throughout Buffalo’sneighborhoods, traced it back to Steven Bennet and his co-conspirators, and has them facing justice today. Like any illegal drug, methamphetamine has the potential to cause overdoses and death to many of its users, while also increasing violence, theft and crime associated with drug trafficking. I highly commend the men and women of our joint local, state and federal task force who worked with a sense of urgency to protect the citizens of Buffalo from this drug trafficking organization."
The indictment is the result of an investigation on the part of members of the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian R. Crowell, New York Field Division, the Erie County Sheriff's Department, under the direction of Sheriff Timothy Howard, the Cheektowaga Police Department, under the direction of Chief David Zack, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Toni Weirauch.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.