CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX #: (716) 551-3051
BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Daren Lewis, 39, of Quincy, MA, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with possessing with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. The charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life, and a $10,000,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin G. Bish, who is handling the case, stated that on July 10, 2020, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Flagstaff, Arizona received an alert regarding a suspicious cargo shipment, originating in California and destined for Tonawanda, NY. The shipment was manifested as personal effects and the phone number provided by the shipper was not a working number.
HSI Buffalo, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, and the Niagara County Drug Task Force began investigating the shipment on July 13, 2020, after its arrival in Tonawanda. On that day, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) K-9 showed interest in the vent of the container, but did not make a final positive alert to the presence of controlled substances. However, an Erie County Sheriff’s Office K-9 ran to the suspicious shipment container without command and indicated a positive alert to the presence of a narcotic odor near the same vent and area of the container at which the CBP K-9 showed interest.
At approximately 1:45 p.m. on July 13, 2020, the defendant Daren Lewis arrived at an area cargo terminal in a U-Haul rental truck. After going inside the office, the defendant returned to the truck and backed the U-Haul up to the container holding the suspicious shipment. Lewis opened the locks on the container and positioned the doors of the U-Haul truck to obscure the area between the truck and the container before going into the container.
After a short time, he was observed in the cab of the truck and appeared to be using a telephone. After closing the doors on the back of the U-Haul truck and driving away from the cargo terminal, the defendant was stopped on Sheridan Drive in Tonawanda by Erie County Sheriff’s Deputies. The defendant and the U-Haul truck were transported to an Erie County Sheriff’s Office. A search warrant was executed on the U-Haul. Inside, investigators discovered two cardboard boxes containing shrink wrapped packages. One of the packages was opened and found to contain a bag of a white crystal substance, which field tested positive for methamphetamine. The shipment contained a total of 59.5 pounds of suspected methamphetamine. The estimated street value of the suspected methamphetamine is $2,700,000. Lewis was arrested.
“While we often speak of the potentially deadly consequences of heroin and fentanyl use, methamphetamine can be just as dangerous, just as addictive, and in the end, just as deadly,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “The coordinated efforts by Homeland Security and our partners in local law enforcement have resulted in one of the largest seizures of methamphetamine ever in the Western District of New York and prevented this massive batch of poison from reaching our streets and wreaking havoc in our community.”
“Drug trafficking organizations clearly have the false perception that they can act with impunity during the current crisis,” said Kevin Kelly, HSI Buffalo Special Agent-in-Charge. “This arrest and significant seizure sends an unequivocal message that we will continue to hold criminals accountable.”
The defendant will make an initial appearance on July 15, 2020, at 10:00 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Roemer.
The criminal complaint is the culmination of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly; the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Timothy Howard; and the Niagara County Drug Task Force, under the direction of Niagara County Acting Sheriff Michael Filicetti.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
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