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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 9, 2018

Twelve Defendants Arrested, Charged In Marijuana Conspiracy

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

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that 12 defendants have been arrested and charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, 100 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing marijuana. The charge carries a minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum of 40 years and a $5,000,000 fine.   

Named in the complaint are:

• Phoumano Duangtavilay, 50;
• Khonesavanh Vongxay, 62;
• Kongchay Kongthong, 50;
• Manivone Phommaviseth, 56;
• James Vongxay, 20;
• Chandy Vongxay, 29;
• Keith Surivan, 40;
• Phetnalay Douangtavilay, 47;
• Phou Daoreuang, 33;
• Danisha Floyd, 26;
• Jerimiah Torres, 20; and
• Kongdeuane Vongxay, 39.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean C. Eldridge, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, since 2014, Phoumano Duangtavilay and Khonesavanh Vongxay have headed a marijuana distribution organization operating in the Rochester, NY area. Co-defendants Kongchay Kongthong, Manivone Phommaviseth, James Vongxay, Chandy Vongxay, Keith Surivan, Phetnalay Doungtavilay, Phou Daoreuang, Danisha Floyd, Jerimiah Torres, and Kongdeuane Vongxay assisted in distributing marijuana in the Rochester area and in obtaining money orders through structured purchases to evade reporting requirements and to conceal the proceeds of their marijuana sales. The complaint alleges that the organization obtained marijuana from California, and shipped it to various locations in Rochester for distribution. Money orders were then sent back to California as payment for the marijuana.

As part of the investigation, law enforcement officers executed search warrants at nine locations in Rochester, and on numerous packages that were subsequently found to contain marijuana or money orders. Investigators seized over 130 pounds of marijuana, over $180,000 in money orders, and four vehicles that were used to facilitate the marijuana trafficking. Between August 2015 and January 2018, a total of 1,061 parcels containing suspected marijuana were sent using the U.S. Postal Service from California to individuals or addresses associated with this conspiracy in Rochester. 

“This drug organization, like others we are seeing with increasing frequency, sought to flood the market through a steady drip, drip, drip of relatively small packages of drugs being shipped into our community,” noted U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “Today, that spigot finally got turned-off. Whether its marijuana or deadly fentanyl, this Office, together with our partners in law enforcement will do all that we can to stem the flow of illegal substances into our area.” 

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, along with our federal and state law enforcement partners, will dedicate the resources necessary to combat drug trafficking in our communities,” stated Acting Inspector-in-Charge Raymond Moss of the United States Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division. “These arrests should give fair warning that using the U.S. Mail to facilitate crimes like these, will not be tolerated. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will continue to work diligently to rid the U.S. Mail of illegal drugs and their proceeds.”

“The suppliers of illegal drugs are exploiting every channel they can to infiltrate our communities,” said State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II. “By using our postal service, these defendants were able to ship drugs to our state and then distribute on our streets. These are crimes that will not be tolerated. The arrests are the result of collaboration and cooperation between all levels of government – federal, state and local law enforcement. Together, law enforcement is sending them a message: No matter how you attempt to bring illegal drugs into our communities, we will find you and send you to jail.”

Ten of the 12 defendants made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan W. Feldman. Phoumano Duangtavilay is being held while the other nine defendants were released on conditions. Defendants Chandy Vongxay and Keith Surivan were arrested in the Atlanta, Georgia area and will be returned to the Western District of New York at a later date.

The complaint is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector-in-Charge Ray Moss of the Boston Division, and the New York State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team (CNET), under the direction of CNET Detail Commander Major Mary Clark, Lieutenant Kevin Reyes, CNET Western Regional Narcotics Commander, and Senior Investigator Matthew Butts, Narcotics Group Supervisor. Additional assistance was provided by the New York State Police, under the direction of Major Richard Allen, Troop E Commander; the Rochester Police Department, under the direction of Chief Michael Ciminelli; the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt, New York Field Division; the U.S. Marshals Service, under the direction of Marshal Charles Salina; Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly; US Border Patrol, under the direction of Patrol Agent-in-Charge Steven Oldman; Irondequoit Police Department, under the direction of Chief Richard Tantalo; the Gates Police Department, under the direction of Chief James VanBrederode; and the New York National Guard Counter Drug Task Force. The New York State Police also recognize the assistance of JetBlue Corporate Security.

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 March 12, 2018