The leader of a transnational drug ring that transported heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine from Mexico to Niagara Falls, Lockport, and Buffalo will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Herman E. Aguirre, aka 007, aka Lucky, aka Primo, and aka Freddy, of Brea, California, received the sentence from U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo during a hearing in federal court. Aguirre was convicted, following a jury trial, of narcotics conspiracy, operating a continuing criminal enterprise and money laundering conspiracy.
Federal prosecutors said Aguirre ran a drug trafficking organization that was supplied by the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.
Federal, state and local drug investigators said the Aguirre organization trafficked thousands of kilograms of heroin, fentanyl and cocaine throughout the United States. The drugs were transported via U.S. 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 California. Another fictitious company, Corral Seafoods, LLC, registered in New York, was allegedly located in Cheektowaga.
During the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers seized illegal drugs valued at more than $5 million including 52.5 kilograms of cocaine, 17.5 kilograms of heroin, and 8.5 kilograms of fentanyl.
In addition to Aguirre, 16 other defendants were charged and convicted in the case. They included Troy Gillon, 46, of Lockport, who was convicted of narcotics conspiracy following an eight-week jury trial in federal court. Described by prosecutors as a member of the Aguirre organization, Gillon was sentenced to serve 25 years in prison.
Investigators said Gillon disguised kilogram quantities of heroin, fentanyl and cocaine in boxes described on inventory manifests as containing “Sea Cucumbers.” Gillon and other members of the Aguirre organization deposited more than $19 million in illegal drug proceeds into fake seafood business accounts at local Bank of America branches, while California-based co-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 Gillon’s trial that none of Wegman’s 13 Western New York stores ever carried sea cucumbers because there is no local demand for the product.
Using standard dosage amounts, the seized drugs represented about 1.5 million “hits” of cocaine and 2.7 million “hits” of heroin. With two milligrams of fentanyl considered a lethal dose, the Aguirre organization imported and distributed enough fentanyl to potentially kill more than 4 million people, prosecutors said.
Evidence at Gillon’s trial revealed that after a December 2014 meeting in Buffalo, Aguirre shipped 10 kilograms of fentanyl to Western New York and Gillon took possession of the shipment. Gillon then sold the equivalent of two kilograms of the drug in the Lockport area.
Niagara County Drug Task Force investigators said Lockport residents began overdosing on the drugs shortly after New Year’s Day 2015.
A DEA agent who testified at Gillon’s trial said Gillon told police that he returned the remaining eight kilograms in his possession to a co-conspirator in early March 2015, telling the co-conspirator, “People are dying off this (expletive).”
“(Aguirre) and other members of his illegal narcotics operation had millions of dollars and ties to some of the most dangerous drug traffickers across the country and in Mexico,” Trini Ross, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, said. “The efforts of our law enforcement professionals working here in the Western District, and throughout the country, resulted in the arrest and conviction of 17 defendants, and the removal of dangerous and potentially deadly drugs from our community. This is a testament to the great work of law enforcement to keep communities safe from drugs and violence.”