Updated 01/18/2013 10:23 PM
Crystal meth pipeline busted
Local law enforcement officials take down a drug operation that they say could have had deadly consequences. YNN's Katie Cummings has more on the arrests and the drug involved.
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — "This drug trafficking operation has been obliterated"
DEA and local law enforcement are relieved after a major drug ring was busted Friday. Investigators say 42-year-old Steven Bennett led the organization which agents dubbed Operation Cool Runnings.
Authorities say he orchestrated drug trafficking from his hometown of Los Angeles to Buffalo through the U.S. Postal Service and with help locally.
"This bank employee was involved with him and was helping Bennett set up phony baloney bank accounts to be used to help facilitate the transfer of drug proceeds back to California," said Dale Kasprzyk, DEA Resident Agent in Charge.
Bennett was captured at a home on Decker Street Friday morning.
The employee, Jessica Lopez, was fired days earlier after an internal investigation at the bank. Both face charges of money laundering on top of the drug trafficking.
The DEA says on top of cocaine, Bennett was trying to sell high grade crystal meth which hasn’t been seen in Western New York.
"This methamphetamine sold for anywhere between $1,500 to $2,500 an ounce. He gave it to his associates and asked them to try and put these drugs on the street and get people introduced to this new drug," Kasprzyk said.
The DEA says this form of meth was crystallized and produced in higher, more potent quantities.
"The cartels in Mexico are manufacturing this at super labs which utilize 100 percent pure ephedrine, so the quality you are getting is one to one," said Michelle Spahn, DEA Supervisory Special Agent.
Another associate was arrested on Niagara Street on Friday, as well as two others in LA and Jamestown. The investigation began in July and the DEA says little of the high grade meth actually reached the streets. The U.S. Attorney’s Office says on top of cash and drugs, weapons were seized as well which could result in further charges.
The drug trafficking charges alone carry a maximum of up to 40 years in prison for all seven suspects.