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Press Release

Three Defendants Indicted On Charges Involving In Drugs Linked To A Mexican Drug Cartel

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 William J. Hochul Jr. announced today that a federal grand jury has returned and indictment charging Jose Manuel Lua-Guizar, 25, Max Riestra, 40, both of Mexico, and Pethrod Dunnigan, 37, of Buffalo, NY, with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and one kilogram or more of heroin. Defendants Guizar and Riestra were also indicted on charges of a money laundering conspiracy. The charges carry a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison, a maximum of life, a $10,000,000 or both.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Adler, who is handling the case, stated that according to the indictment and previously filed complaints, law enforcement officers began investigating a sophisticated drug trafficking organization with ties to a Mexican drug cartel operating out of Los Angeles, California area in 2014. Max Riestra was identified as being responsible for managing multiple bank accounts that were used to launder proceeds from drug sales. 

The indictment further states that the organization shipped drug packages to various states including New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Colorado. Members of the organization then used bank accounts, primarily through Bank of America, to launder the drug cash back to the greater Los Angeles area. During the course of the investigation, officers executed search warrants that resulted in the seizure of drugs including one seizure of 21 kilograms of cocaine and three kilograms of heroin. 

The investigation further revealed that a FedEx account controlled by Max Riestra was used to send packages to Buffalo, NY, including some to co-defendant Jose Manuel Lua-Guizar. Guizar would travel from California to Buffalo to receive the packages and distribute the cocaine to local Buffalo area drug dealers, including defendant Pethrod Dunnigan.

The proceeds from the cocaine sales were deposited in local Bank of America branches in amounts just under $10,000. Deposits of $10,000 or more require the bank to report the transaction. According to the indictment, the total amount of money deposited in this fashion had reached nearly $2,000,000. 

The defendants have been arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy and are being detained.    

The indictment is the culmination of an investigation on the part of the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt, New York Field Division, Immigration and Custom Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations Division, under the direction of Shantelle P. Kitchen, Special Agent in Charge, New York Field Office. Additional assistance was provided by ICE-HSI in Los Angeles, California.

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.

Updated January 15, 2016