BUFFALO, N.Y.-U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Pethrod Dunnigan, 40, of Buffalo, NY, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more or cocaine, and money laundering conspiracy before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford. The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life and a $20,000,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Adler, who is handling the case, stated that between 2012 and March, 2016, the defendant conspired with Jose Manuel Lua-Guizar, Gerardo Ballardo, Enrique Munoz, Max Riestra, and others, to distribute cocaine and hide the proceeds from the illegal drug sales.
Co-defendants Ballardo and Lua-Guizar received shipments from California and then sold the cocaine to Dunnigan and others. The defendant paid $35,000 for each kilogram of cocaine received and then took the kilograms of cocaine to an apartment building on Delaware Avenue and store them in an abandoned apartment.
Most of the drug proceeds were sent back to California by structured deposits made under the $10,000 reporting requirement at Bank of America branches. Dunnigan made multiple structured deposits at different Bank of America branches. The defendant and his co-conspirators accounted for over $1,000,000.00 in structured deposits in Buffalo. A ledger for structured deposits was recovered from a stash house in California. In that stash house, law enforcement officers also recovered shipping materials, 21 kilograms of cocaine, and three kilograms of heroin. On at least one occasion, the defendant shipped about $500,000 in U.S. currency to California by hiding the cash in a small refrigerator within a crate.
A total of seven defendants have been indicted in this sophisticated drug trafficking organization with ties to a Mexican drug cartel operating out of the Los Angeles, California area. The organization shipped drugs to various states including New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Colorado, and Ohio. To date, four defendants have been convicted. Charges are pending against the remaining defendants. 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.
The plea 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 Kevin Kelly; and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations Division, under the direction of James D. Robnett, Special Agent-in-Charge, New York Field Office. Additional assistance was provided by ICE-HSI in Los Angeles, California.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 8, 2018, at 3:00 p.m. before Judge Wolford.