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Drug trafficking ring dismantled in Lackawanna

Ashley Hirtzel

An illegal narcotics trafficking ring was taken down by several law enforcement agencies and SWAT teams early Tuesday morning. Twenty men and women have been indicted by a federal grand jury and charged.

The gang members called themselves the “Project Boys” or “The Firm.” They allegedly operated out of the Gates Housing Project in Lackawanna. Eighteen were charged with possession of crack cocaine and two were charged with heroin possession. Many involved face more severe charges of dealing drugs within 1,000 feet of public housing.

U.S. Attorney William Hochul says the gang used text messaging and cell phones during their operation. He says after 10 months of extensive investigation and wiretaps the gang was dismantled.

“Peace, safety, and security will return once again to the wonderful residents that call the Gates Housing Facility in Lackawanna home,” said Hochul.

Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO
The Gates Housing Project in Lackawanna

Police seized a number of weapons, cash, and drugs during the raid. Lackawanna Police Chief Jim Michael  says the gang used violence and intimidation techniques.

“Many of the residents that had information wouldn’t come forward, because of this fear, which caused the investigation to drag on longer than we would have liked. These people that were arrested, many of them are convicted felons with a violent felony past. Some of the charges they may be facing in addition, include witness intimidation and attempted murder. Some of them are persons of interest in some of the shootings we’ve had recently in Lackawanna and Buffalo,” said Michael.

The group faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years with a maximum of life in prison.

Charged in the two indictments are:

• Jeffrey Graham, 29, of Buffalo, NY • Rueben Fears, 31, of Lackawanna, NY • Craig Eldridge, 25, of Lackawanna, NY • Terry Williams, 32, of Cheektowaga, NY • Sharon Thompson, 22, of Lackawanna, NY • Laron Thompson, 28, of Buffalo, NY • James Sullivan, 26, of Buffalo, NY • Charisma Royster, 24, of Buffalo, NY • Shavon Royal, 20, of Lackawanna, NY • Reginald Royal, Jr., 22, of Lackawanna, NY • Charles Rose, 35, of Lackawanna, NY • Derrick Patterson, 39, of Lackawanna, NY • Waldemar Pabon, 27, of Buffalo, NY • Theodore Hines, 29, of Lackawanna, NY • Laferald Hines, 25, of Tonawanda, NY • Tarrell Hendrix, 31, of Lackawanna NY • Thomas Hakeem, 68, of Lackawanna, NY • Edward Green, 28, of Lackawanna, NY • Jeanette Knightner, 32, of Buffalo • Reginald Royal, Sr., 43, of Kenmore, NY

The indictments are the culmination of an investigation by the Lackawanna Police Department, under the direction of Chief James Michel and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Safe Street’s Task Force, which includes the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James S. Higgins, New York Field Division, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero. U.S. Border Patrol, under the direction of Patrol Agent in Charge Tom Pocorobba, the New York State Police, under the direction of Major Michael Cerretto, the Cheektowaga Police Department, under the direction of Chief David Zack, the Erie County Sheriff’s Department, under the direction of Timothy Howard, the Hamburg Police Department, under the direction of Chief Michael Williams, the Amherst Police Department, under the direction of Chief John Askey, the Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Daniel Derenda, the Lancaster Police Department, under the direction of Chief Gerald Gill, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Police, under the direction of Chief George Gast, and the New York State Department of Correctional Services, under the direction of Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci. Additional assistance was provided by the U.S. Marshall Service, under the direction of Charles Salina and the Tonawanda Police Department, under the direction of Chief Anthony Palombo.