The road from the Sinaloa Drug Cartel in Mexico to Lockport, N.Y. covered roughly 2,500 miles.
Lockport's Troy Gilland will now serve in federal prison about one year for every 100 of those miles,
Gillon, 46, was convicted of narcotics conspiracy following an eight week jury trial in Buffalo, and was sentenced to serve 25 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo, according to a press release issued by U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr.
“Make no mistake, though their operations were centered over 2,500 miles away, the reach of the harm done by the Sinaloa Cartel extended all of the way here to Western New York,” Kennedy said.
“They poured poison into our community and made millions of dollars at the expense of the health, well-being — and in some instances the lives — of those who ingested them. Those individuals, such as the defendant, who sought to profit from the Cartel’s business model as established by its leader, El Chapo, deserve a similar return on their investment as he got—a sentence which will result in him spending the rest of his life in federal prison.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan A. Tokash, who handled the prosecution of the case, said Gillon was a member of a transnational drug trafficking organization, led by co-defendant Herman E. Aguirre, that utilized contacts and a source of supply whose territory included Mexico, Arizona, California, and elsewhere.
The source of supply was the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.
The local organization trafficked thousands of kilograms of illegal narcotics, including heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine throughout the United States, including Lockport, Niagara Falls and Buffalo, via the mail, individual vehicles outfitted with “trap” compartments, and on pallets loaded on tractor trailers.
Members of the organization created fictitious “front” companies to launder drug proceeds including Triton Foods, Inc., Kamora Investment Enterprises, Inc. and Fresh Choice Produce, all of which were incorporated in the State of California. Another fictitious company, Corral Seafoods, LLC, registered in New York, was allegedly located in Cheektowaga, but proved to be completely fake.
Using these companies, Gillon and his co-defendants disguised kilogram quantities of heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine on pallets described on inventory and other documents as containing “Sea Cucumbers,” Kennedy said.
“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. The pallets bearing the illegal narcotics were secreted in containers sealed with foam or spray insulation to avoid detection by law enforcement,” Kennedy said.
Members of the organization also utilized numerous bank accounts at local Bank of America branches to deposit illegal drug proceeds. Local members of the drug trafficking organization deposited over $19,000,000 of illegal drug proceeds into these fake seafood accounts, while California conspirators created false invoices to make it look like Western New Yorkers were buying sea cucumbers at astounding rates and quantities.
The Western New York Asset Protection Manager of Wegman’s Food Markets, Inc. testified at the trial that none of its 13 Western New York stores have ever carried sea cucumbers because there is no demand for the product in Buffalo and the surrounding areas.
During the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers seized more than $5,000,000 worth of illegal narcotics, including 52.5 kilograms of cocaine, 17.5 kilograms of heroin and 8.5 kilograms of fentanyl.
Using standard dosage amounts, the seized drugs represent about 1,500,000 “hits” of cocaine, and 2,700,000 “hits” of heroin and considering that two milligrams of fentanyl can be a lethal dose, enough fentanyl potentially to kill over four million people, Kennedy said.
Evidence at trial revealed that after a December 2014 meeting in Buffalo, defendant Aguirre shipped 10 kilograms of fentanyl to Buffalo and defendant Gillon took possession of the 10 kilograms. Gillon sold two kilograms of the fentanyl before residents of the Lockport area started overdosing on the drug shortly after New Year’s Day, 2015.
A DEA representative testified that Gillon told police that he returned the remaining eight kilograms to a co-conspirator in early March 2015 because, “People are dying off this (expletive).” The co-conspirator moved the remaining fentanyl, along with two kilograms of cocaine, and 22 kilograms of heroin, to a house on Folger Street in the City of Buffalo. On March 23, 2015, Buffalo Police seized 32 kilograms of drugs from the Folger Street location—including Gillon’s eight kilograms of fentanyl.
The investigation further determined that between June 2013 and September 2015, members of the organization distributed more than 5,000 pounds of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and marijuana in the Western New York area. Approximately $20,000,000 was sent from Western New York banks to California in a two-year period of time.
Aguirre was also convicted at trial of narcotics conspiracy, as well as operating a continuing criminal enterprise and money laundering conspiracy, and is scheduled to be sentenced in February. A total of 18 defendants were charged and convicted in this case.