BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Authorities say drug lords used western New York as a gateway for the biggest cocaine ring Canadian authorities have either seen.
$30-million worth of cocaine was found in one seizure earlier this year. Canadian authorities now believe they have taken a bite out of an organized crime ring that traffics close to $2-billion of cocaine a year, much of which they believe is funneled through western New York.
The arrests of key figures in an international drug-trafficking network called "Project Ink" were announced Friday by a joint task force of Canadian and U.S. law enforcement. Officials have identified Ontario's Niagara Region has one of the main hubs in Canada in the narcotics distribution network.
Sgt. Joseph Maggiolo of Niagara Regional Police Services, "They stand to bring in roughly $1.9 billion off the street."
Project Ink was launched by Canadian authorities last year.
The narcotics investigation led agents to one of the units in a St. Catharines warehouse, where they seized 110 kilograms of cocaine - roughly 200 pounds - with a street value of about $30 million.
With more than a dozen law enforcement agencies on the trail of the traffickers, they have traced most of the cocaine to the drug cartels in Mexico, with truckloads shipped over the road to Los Angeles, and from their to the major hubs, including Vancouver British Columbia in Western Canada. Another major supply route went from Chicago into western New York and over the border into Southern Ontario and on to Quebec.
Vincent Salvatore of Homeland Security said, "Moving from the the United States into Canada, including Vancouver and the Montreal area, and we are told, some of it being staged within the Buffalo area, and then transported into Canada."
And officials say it is western New York's unique border with Canada that makes it an attractive crossing, even in boats.
"They were utilizing the dingys late at night and going across, and bringing the dope or the Ecstasy," Sgt. Maggiolo said.
The Ecstasy that Sgt. Maggiolo was referred to is part of the trade off at the border. The cocaine is traded to the Canadian drug dealers in exchange for Ecstasy or weed for the American dealers.
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