Two men have been convicted in a narcotics conspiracy in Western New York connected to the El Chapo Mexican drug cartel.
Herman E. Aguirre, of Brea, California, and Troy Gillon of Lockport were both convicted of narcotics conspiracy following an eight-week trial.
Aguirre was also convicted of operating a continuing criminal enterprise and money laundering conspiracy.
According to the assistant U.S. Attorneys handling the case, Aguirre was the leader and Gillon a member of a transnational drug trafficking organization that sourced drugs from Mexico, Arizona, California, and elsewhere.
The source of the supply was the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.
The local organization trafficked thousands of kilograms of illegal drugs, including heroin and fentanyl through the WNY area. Organization members also created fake “front” companies to launder the profits. They included Triton Foods, Inc., Kamora Investment Enterprises, Inc., Fresh Choice Produce, and Corral Seafoods, LLC, which was registered in New York and allegedly located in Cheektowaga, although proved to be totally fictitious.
The defendants disguised the drugs on pallets described on inventory and other documents as “sea cucumbers”.
“Evidence presented by the Government at trial showed that sea cucumbers are commonly found in Southeast Asia and Europe but rarely, if ever, in Western New York State,” a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Thursday. “The pallets bearing the illegal narcotics were secreted in containers sealed with foam or spray insulation to avoid detection by law enforcement.”
According to the press release, members of the trafficking organization deposited over $19 million of illegal drug proceeds into fake seafood accounts and California conspirators made fake invoices to make it look like WNY customers sea cucumbers at astounding rates.
The WNY Asset Protection Manager of Wegmans, Inc. testified at the trial that none of Wegman’s 13 WNY stores have ever carried sea cucumbers because there is not demand for the product in Buffalo or the surrounding areas.
Law enforcement seized over $5 million worth of illegal narcotics over the course of the investigation including 17.5 kg of heroin and 8.5 kg of fentanyl.
Aguirre and Gillon were indicted along with 15 others including:
• Jose Ruben Gil, a/k/a Unc, a/k/a Ruben Gil Campos, a/k/a Mayor of Mexico, was convicted and is awaiting sentencing;
• Sonia Hernandez, was convicted and is awaiting sentencing;
• Margaret Banuelos, a/k/a Lisa, was convicted and is awaiting sentencing;
• Darryl J. Williams, a/k/a D, was convicted and is awaiting sentencing;
• Trent Adair Hamilton, was convicted and is awaiting sentencing;
• Michael Paul Mitchell, was convicted and is awaiting sentencing;
• Demetrius Yarborough, a/k/a Tu, was convicted and is awaiting sentencing;
• Rashawn Crule, a/k/a Black, a/k/a Shawn, was convicted and is awaiting sentencing;
• Maulana Lucas, a/k/a Big Daddy, a/k/a Shabazz, was convicted and is awaiting sentencing;
• Shirley Grigsby, was convicted and is awaiting sentencing;
• Ralik Hamilton; was convicted and is awaiting sentencing;
• Dion Cheatham, was convicted and is awaiting sentencing; and
• Joseph Thompson, a/k/a Jo-Jo, a/k/a Skools, a/k/a Skoolboy, convicted and sentenced.
Both Aguirre and Gillon face a maximum of life in prison. Aguirre is scheduled to be sentenced June 12 and Gillon is scheduled to be sentenced June 14.