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May 20, 2022 - 9:04am
posted by Howard B. Owens in State Police, Troop A, news.

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State Police Troop A held its 41st Memorial Day for fallen troopers at the Batavia Barracks on Thursday.

Photos by Alecia Kaus/Video News Service.

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April 4, 2022 - 2:52pm
posted by Press Release in crime, State Police, news, distracted driving.

Press release:

The New York State Police will participate in a national crackdown on distracted driving as part of April’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The enforcement effort, called Operation Hang Up, will include increased patrols and checkpoints targeting drivers using electronic devices while behind the wheel. This year’s enforcement detail will run from Monday, April 4, through Monday, April 11, 2022.

Troopers will be using both marked State Police vehicles and Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement (CITE) vehicles to more easily identify motorists who are using handheld devices while driving. CITE vehicles allow the Trooper to better observe distracted driving violations.  These vehicles blend in with everyday traffic but are unmistakable as emergency vehicles once the emergency lighting is activated.

New York State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen said, “Distracted Driving continues to be a leading factor in motor vehicle crashes. Yet, the deaths and injuries caused by distracted driving are 100 percent preventable. Drivers must be aware of their surroundings and consciously reduce distractions and behaviors that take their attention from the road.  State Police will continue to work toward making New York’s roads safer and we will hold distracted drivers accountable.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,142 people were killed in the United States in distraction-affected crashes in 2020. To help prevent more tragedies, NHTSA recommends the following for motorists:

  • If you must send or receive a text, pull over to a safe location and park your car first.
  • If you have passengers, appoint a “designated texter” to handle all your texting.
  • If you can’t resist the temptation to look at your phone, keep it in the trunk.

Current New York State law includes the following penalties for distracted drivers:

  • For a first offense, the minimum fine is $50 and the maximum is $200
  • A second offense in 18 months increases the maximum fine to $250
  • A third offense in 18 months results in a maximum fine of $450
  • Probationary and junior drivers face a 120-day suspension of their license for a first offense, and one-year revocation of their permit or license if a second offense is committed within six months
May 20, 2021 - 3:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in State Police, Troop A, batavia barracks, batavia, news.

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New York State Police Troop A held their annual Law Enforcement Memorial Service today at the Troop A Barracks in Batavia.

This was Troop's first service since 2019 after last year's service was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The service honors troopers who have died in the line of duty.

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New York State Police Acting Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen attended the event.

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August 31, 2020 - 2:18pm
posted by Press Release in State Police, NY-27, Chris Jacobs, news.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) was endorsed by the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association at a press conference this morning.

"Throughout his entire public career, Chris Jacobs has been a vocal advocate for the men and women of our law enforcement," said Jack Moretti, NYSTPBA retiree legislative liaison. "As a retired member of the New York State Troopers, I know firsthand that our police officers need more resources, which is why it is critically important we have elected officials who will tirelessly support our forces.

"We are proud to endorse Chris Jacobs for Congress, and we are more than confident that he will continue his strong defense of our police officers and be a true fighter for our needs and the safety of our communities." 

Moretti was joined by John Clark, second vice-chair, and Ryan Hadsall, Troop A delegate, to deliver the endorsement of Jacobs. The NYSTPBA represents more than 6,000 active and retired New York State Police.

“At a time when there are growing calls to defund our police forces around our nation, it is essential that we support our law enforcement and elect leaders who are willing to stand by them," Jacobs said. "I am truly honored to be endorsed by the New York State Troopers PBA, and I am proud of my strong record fighting for our law enforcement's needs.

"I have profound respect for anyone who puts on the uniform and bravely serves their community, and I promise to continue fighting for our great police in Congress."

March 21, 2020 - 5:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in elba, State Police, news.

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Among the 226 new state troopers who graduated in the 209th class Basic School of the New York State Police Academy was Evan Cole, a 2015 graduate of Elba High School.

He has been assigned to Troop D.

“After months of difficult classwork and training, the 209th Basic School graduates join the ranks of one of the finest police agencies in the world,” said New York State Police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett. “This graduation is the culmination of 26 weeks of hard work and perseverance. I congratulate all of our new Troopers and thank them for their continued dedication and determination.”

Photo submitted by Lynn Bezon.

February 4, 2020 - 1:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Troop A, State Police, news.

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Major James M. Hall, a 25-year veteran of the New York State Police has been named the 25th Troop Commander in the 102-year history of Troop A.

As the Troop A Commander, Hall will oversee all State Police patrol and investigative operations within the eight counties of Western New York for more than 400 sworn and civilian personnel.

Hall began his State Police career in 1994 and rose through the ranks, most recently, serving as Troop A’s BCI Captain. His duties have included: Uniform Trooper, Sergeant, Lieutenant and Captain. Additionally, he has served in the Professional Standards Bureau, as well as the Gaming Detail.

Hall received a bachelor's degree in Organizational Management from Houghton College and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Marist College. He is also a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy.

Throughout his career, Major Hall has had the opportunity to work on several high-profile cases during his various assignments. He is committed to public service and comes from a family with a rich history in law enforcement.

May 22, 2019 - 1:13am
posted by Howard B. Owens in NYSP, State Police, Troop A.
Video Sponsor

On Tuesday, members of Troop A, New York State Police, held their annual Memorial Day Service in remembrance of their colleagues who gave their lives in the line of duty. 

January 29, 2019 - 11:26am
posted by Howard B. Owens in State Police, weather, news.

Press release:

The New York State Police is advising motorist to avoid any unnecessary driving during the winter storm that is forecast to bring a significant amount of snow and -25 degrees below zero temperatures across the Western New York Wednesday into Thursday evening.
 
Troopers will be out checking all major routes of travel to ensure that motorists are as safe as possible and working with local Emergency Operations Centers as needed. The State Police need your assistance to make this possible.

Motorists traveling in areas impacted by the snow are asked to leave with extra time to make a slow and careful drive to your destination. Take into consideration snow accumulation on the roads, the current snowfall rate, the wind, and visibility. Use your best judgment to determine if driving is prudent. 
 
Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Get the latest weather forecast before leaving with your local weather apps, monitor radio or TV stations.
  • Always clean your windows and mirrors FULLY of any snow and ice before driving.
  • Keep a full tank of gas.
  • Fluid levels are sufficient ( windshield washer fluid, anti-freeze).
  • Spare tire is sufficient and you have the jack and wheel wrench.
  • Use headlights at all times to increase your visibility to others. Remember, if your windshield wipers are in use due to weather, then your headlights must be on.
  • Drive prudently. If the conditions are adverse, you should decrease your speed accordingly.
  • Brake early.
  • Do NOT use cruise control. This decreases your reaction time to apply braking.
  • Look out for events farther down the road. Creating more time to react can make a difference.
  • Be aware of maintenance vehicles and emergency vehicles. Give them room to work.
  • If you do not absolutely have to go out on the roads, then don’t.

If you do go out, is your vehicle prepared?

  • Is your trunk supplied to help you to be safe in case you are stopped or stranded in an area without assistance readily available?
    • Gloves, blankets, warmers, tool kit, first-aid kit, nonperishable foods, water, working flashlight and batteries, cell phone charger, etc.
    • Shovel, ice scraper, de-icer, snow brush, rock salt or cat litter, tow chain or cable, jumper cables or battery charger, etc.

If you are involved in a collision or leave the roadway:
 
If you drive off the roadway and are stuck in a snow bank or ditch, stay in your vehicle and call 9-1-1. DO NOT exit your vehicle unless it is an absolute emergency. You put yourself at risk of being struck by another vehicle.
 
Roll your windows down a few inches or turn your vehicle off if you are stranded in snow for a period of time with your vehicle running. Covered mufflers can cause serious physical injury or death due to inhalation of carbon monoxide.
 
If you should become stranded on the Thruway or any roadway, know your location by being aware of your direction and mile post marker. This will help emergency personnel reach your location as quick as possible. 
 
Follow the New York State Police's Twitter page @nyspolice for up-to-the-minute information on road closures and weather alerts.
 
The Thruway Authority provides a wide variety of information for travelers including current traffic conditions, accidents, and lane closures. Visit www.thruway.ny.gov for more information. 
 
Slow down. Be prepared. Be safe.

May 16, 2018 - 1:11am
posted by Howard B. Owens in State Police, Troop A, batavia, news.

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State Police Troop A held their annual memorial service Tuesday honoring the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of the citizens of Western New York.

Speakers included James P. Kennedy Jr., United States attorney for Western New York, and Major Edward J. Kennedy, Troop commander. 

The event was held inside because of rain.

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To purchase prints, click here.

January 25, 2018 - 4:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in State Police, batavia, news, notify.

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State troopers have a new tool in their aviation toolbox, Capt. Scott Reichel told members of the media assembled at the Batavia Barracks today, where a new program to deploy 18 drones across New York State was announced.

The first two drones were purchased as a pilot project by the State Police. The next 16 were purchased by the Trooper Foundation and donated to the State Police.

Reichel said the program will be evaluated for efficiency and effectiveness, which could determine whether to expand the program or purchase higher-end drones with more capabilities.

The DJI model being deployed, with all accessories, costs about $7,000 each.

"We picked this model because it's a good, proven platform, good airworthiness, pretty good capability to operate in cold weather, and they're used in cinematography and photography, so they have a good camera system," Reichel said.

They will be used in search and rescue missions and criminal investigations. They will also be tested in accident reconstruction, though that requires the purchase of additional technology, but Reichel said the drones could potentially help get accident scenes clear sooner by speeding up the investigation process.

"One reason we picked this drone is cost," Reichel said. "One of the things we wanted to be able to do was deploy these across the state. It doesn’t do any good for the State Police to have one drone to service the entire state of New York. We were able to acquire 18 of these and we’ll be able to put two in each troop."

There is technology available that could help with locating marijuana grow operations, an operation now handled by state police helicopter pilots, but State Police have not yet purchased cameras with that capability. Nor do the cameras have thermal imaging technology.

"The intention is not really to use these for marijuana eradication at this point," Reichel said. "This is more for support of police operations as they're evolving, more a response-type tool."

The goal is to have four to six troopers in each troop, excluding Troop T, which will be covered by the other troops for drone operations, certified to operate the drones.

To be eligible for considerate, a trooper must first become Part 107 certified by the FAA on his or her own time. If accepted into the program, the trooper will go through another 32 hours of training.

There are policies and procedures troopers must learn and obey. All of the same rules that apply now to searches and privacy will apply to drone pilots, Reichel said.

"As always, we safeguard people’s privacy," Reichel said. "That’s the way the State Police operates. We’ve established a privacy policy that governs our use of the drones. We discussed it with the New York Civil Liberties Union. The drone is not intended to circumvent any legal process that we already comply with, so it’s just another tool in the toolbox."

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Zone Sgt. Corey Harmon

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December 6, 2017 - 12:56pm

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Press release: 

On Dec. 9th, members of the Batavia Police Department, the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, and New York State Police Troop A, will be participating in the third annual “Shop with a Cop” event at Walmart on Veterans Memorial Drive. 

Grant money from Walmart, designated specifically for this event was distributed equally to all three organizations. The schools within Genesee County assisted in choosing the children. 

The City of Batavia Police Benevolent Association, Genesee County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, City of Batavia CSEA members, the City’s “Jeans for Friday” program, Department of Public Works (AFSCME) Union, and H.E. Turner & Co. Inc. Funeral Home of Batavia & Bergen raised additional funds which enabled 20 extra children to participate. 

A total of 50 children were invited to participate in this year’s event. Once at Walmart, the children will take photographs with Santa Claus and meet with their individual "Cop."

Walmart graciously hosts the event, allocates employees specifically for the event, and also donates gift wrapping materials. Gift wrapping will be completed by the Young Adults Group from Batavia City Church, members of the Batavia Police Explorer’s Post and family members from Batavia Police Department and Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.

The Batavia Police Department, Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, and the New York State Police Troop A, would like to thank Walmart for their generosity and assistance to make this a great event. We would also like to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

Photo: File photo.

November 8, 2017 - 2:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, State Police, news.

Press release:

Public warning -- IRS phone scam alert

The New York State Police in the Western NY area, including Niagara County Sheriffs Dispatch are receiving IRS phone scams. Recently some of calls have a return number to a New York State Police Barracks. The New York State Police are looking into these incidents.

The IRS does NOT contact the public over the phone to discuss tax payment issues.

Other phone scams include a fictitious police officer calling you over the phone demanding money to help bail out a loved one that just got arrested.

Law enforcement agencies do NOT call family to take bail money or gift cards from a retail store to pay off a bail.

If you have an elderly member in your family, warn them of these phone scams.

If you are a victim of a phone scam, call the appropriate police agency in the area you reside or the State Police at 585-344-6200.

July 28, 2017 - 10:51am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, State Police, history, news, notify.

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The first troopers to deploy in Western New York was in Batavia's Exhibition Park in September 1917, so Al Kurek thinks it's appropriate that displays celebrating the 100th anniversary of the New York State Police be held at the same location, now known as Batavia Downs.

"I started collecting historical memorabilia after I retired in 1990 and I've been doing it every day since then," said Kurek, who lives in East Pembroke. "This is our 100th anniversary and we have an active retired trooper organization in Batavia.  We meet monthly and we decided to put this together as our last hurrah before we hit, oh, I don't know what you want to call it, but, you know, we're all in our 70s and pushing 80s."

There are vintage patrol cars, motor cycles and uniforms on display, as well as the accouterments of the trade, from billy clubs, pistols and handcuffs to crime scene cameras and forensic tools. There are also historical documents, including photos and info on every trooper to work in Troop A.

"We've got videos and memorabilia from the 66 and 77 snow storms, Kurek said. "We have a little bit on the Attica riot. We have the 3407 plane crash in Clarence, the 1980 Olympics, which everybody kind of likes. We've got a canine that will be here today and tomorrow -- nothing on Saturday -- but we have a German Shepherd here on Sunday."

The exhibition is open today, tomorrow and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. each day.

Kurek also invited troopers and their families to bring in any items related to the history of Troop A.  

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July 26, 2017 - 8:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in State Police, law enforcement, news.

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New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II has appointed Major Edward J. Kennedy, of Buffalo, as the 24th Troop Commander of Troop A. Major Kennedy began his career in the State Police on Oct. 2, 1989 when he entered the New York State Police Academy. Major Kennedy has served most of his career in the Western New York area.
 
In 1999, he was promoted to Investigator and worked out of SP Wellsville. In October 2002, he was promoted to Senior Investigator and assigned to SP Jamestown.
 
In March of 2007, he was promoted to Lieutenant of the Bureau of Criminal Investigations and assigned to SP Farmingdale, Long Island. After seven months in Long Island he was reassigned to Professional Standards Bureau Western region, which covers Troops A, E. After a few months he was reassigned to SP Jamestown as the Uniform Lieutenant. In April of 2009, he was assigned to SP Batavia as the Lieutenant of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
 
In September of 2012, he was reassigned to acting Zone 3 Commander (Jamestown area) and in March of 2013 promoted to Captain of Zone 3, Troop A. In February 2014, he was reassigned to Troop T, SP Buffalo as Captain, which covers the Thruway from Rochester to the Erie, Pa., line.
 
Major Kennedy’s appointment to Troop A Commander was effective July 13, 2017. He replaces Major Steven Nigrelli who was promoted to Staff Inspector of Professional Standards Bureau - Western region. 
 
As the Troop A Commander, Kennedy will oversee the State Police operations in the eight counties of Western New York including Niagara, Orleans, Erie, Genesee, Wyoming, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany. More than 430 civilian and sworn members are under Major Kennedy’s command.
 
Major Kennedy grew up in the Buffalo area and is a 1985 graduate of Buffalo State College.  He is married and has three children.

June 10, 2017 - 11:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in State Police, batavia, news.

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Investigator Ron Wilson volunteered to be the guy who got tasered today to demonstrate the nonlethal method for subduing suspects for dozens of people who turned out today for the Troop A open house at the Batavia Barracks of the State Police.

The taser demonstration was one a of a dozen similar events staged by troopers during the open house, held to as part of the 100th Anniversary of the State Police.

Troop A is especially proud of the anniversary because it is one of the four original troops in the state, and it's always been based in Batavia, thanks to lobbying by the local Chamber of Commerce in 1917.

The garage at the barracks was also opened for historical displays, including classic and vintage patrol cars.

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(This 1983 Dodge sedan brought back memories -- it's just like the patrol vehicles we had when I was a Law Enforcement Specialist in the Air Force.)

June 7, 2017 - 1:30pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, news, Announcements, Troop A, State Police.

Press release:

In celebration of the NYSP 100 Year Centennial, Troop A in Batavia we will be holding an Open House for the public from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 10.

The location is Troop A Headquarters, SP Batavia, at 4525 W. Saile Drive, Town of Batavia.

Troop A Commander, Major Steven Nigrelli, said “As one of the original four Troops (A,D,G,K), this celebration is extra special here in Western New York and our 100-year history is source of great pride and tradition.

"Our Open House Committee have put together a day full of activities and demonstrations that will surely entertain and educate you and your families about our proud history.”

This is a family-oriented event with K-9 demonstrations, Aviation and Special Operations Response Team shows at starting at 2 p.m. Free refreshments will be provided, including hotdogs from Connors from 1 – 2 p.m.

Throughout the day we will have:

  • Historical Display
  • Robot Demonstrations
  • Defensive Tactics Demonstrations
  • Interactive DWI goggles with pedal cars
  • NYSP Horse Mounted Detail
  • Classic State Police vehicles
  • Current NYSP patrol vehicles
  • NYSP Motorcycles Unit and motorcycle safety education
  • Firearms Safety Display, and much more!
May 16, 2017 - 4:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in State Police, Troop A, law enforcement, batavia, news.

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Members of Troop A, State Police, based in Batavia, honored the men and women who have died in the line of duty while serving and protecting the people of Western New York in a service at the Batavia Barracks today.

Troop A Commander, Major Steven Nigrelli, said: "The Fallen Troopers did not wear capes, hit walk off homeruns are defend Earth from aliens, those are Hollywood Heroes; These Troopers are real American Heroes.

"They simply died doing what they swore an oath to do, the service and defend the public -- even in the face of peril and personal danger."

(In photo above, Trooper Dean Nolte and K9 "Weltz.")

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To purchase prints, click here.

December 23, 2016 - 10:48am

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As students at Oakfield-Alabama Elementary left school yesterday, they were given a "High-Five Goodbye" from six NYS Troopers and K-9 "Paris."

Photo and info submitted by Lynn Gehlert.

October 13, 2016 - 9:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in State Police, batavia, news.

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Cody Towner, a former Town of Batavia fire volunteer, joined 226 other cadets today as the latest graduates of the Basic School of the New York State Police Academy. The cadets are the 204th graduating class.

Towner will join Troop C, based in Sydney.

July 7, 2016 - 4:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, State Police, homeland security.

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    Eduardo Quinones
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    Jose Quinones
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    Misael Rios
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    Yasser Chartrand
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    Claudia Diaz
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    Yaily Santurio
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    Fernando Pizarro
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    Humberto Roche

In January 2015, state and federal law enforcement raided a house at 3618 Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road, Batavia, and by appearances, it looked like a bust on a marijuana growing operation.

Agents at the scene that day declined to share information and a spokesperson for Homeland Security said that the fact that there were sealed indictments in the case prevented her from providing even a general overview of what investigators hoped to uncover.

It turns out, state and federal investigators weren't looking for marijuana -- though they had a pretty good idea they would find a pot-growing operation -- they were looking for evidence in a massive credit card fraud ring involving a group of Cuban nationals from Tampa, Fla., who set up shop in Batavia and Lockport.

Six of the seven defendants associated with the house have now entered guilty pleas in U.S. District Court, so we now have access to much of the details associated with the investigation that lasted for six months, starting in the fall of 2014.

There were two more people arrested and charged in Onondaga County who weren't charged federally.

It was likely a much larger operation, according to available information, but investigators concentrated their efforts on the individuals tied to the best, most solid evidence, said Ron Wilson, an investigator with the State Police in Batavia.

As many as 20 or 25 individuals could have been involved at various times during the criminal enterprise and the people arrested by federal authorities may not have been even the highest ranking in the organization, but according to the evidence uncovered, hundreds of people in Western New York were victims of credit card fraud at a price tag in the $1 million range.

It took several investigators, including Wilson, Investigator John DiPasquale with NYSP Lockport, Sean Needham with Homeland Security, and John Ferris with the U.S. Secret Service, six months to build the case against the individuals eventually arrested on federal charges. Early on Pat Welch with East Aurora PD brought another case to Wilson. Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell T. Ippolito Jr. prosecuted the case.

Wilson said he and DiPasquale dedicated as much as 50 hours a week on the case for six months, and Ferris and Needham also put in hundreds and hundreds of hours into the investigation.

It all started with a complaint routed to a trooper from a resident in Oakfield who had his debit card with him, but it had been used to make a purchase at a Tops Market in Hamburg.

The case made its way to Wilson and he secured a surveillance video that showed two subjects working together.

Wilson used law enforcement communication channels looking for help within the region (sharing the photo, among others, at the top of the story), but no IDs were forthcoming, so he published the photo on CrimeStoppers. Needham saw that post and called Wilson.

"I think I can identify one of your guys," he said.

Misael Toledo Rios was picked up for questioning, but Wilson quickly realized that Rios wasn't the man in the Tops video, but Rios, who had a prior record related to credit card fraud made some admissions that put him on the radar of investigators.

About this time, a Town of Batavia employee reported he was victimized as well, with his Discover card number being used for thousands of dollars of charges at chain retailers in Erie County, including the purchase of a full set of weight-lifting equipment from Dick's Sporting Goods later located in the Batavia house.

Meanwhile, Welch called Wilson and said he had a similar case he was handling and that the subjects in the Hamburg video matched a video he had that related to a fraudulent transaction in East Aurora.

Then DiPasquale called Wilson and said that Cornerstone Bank had just turned over information on 200 bank customers who had been victimized by credit-card cloning.

"At that point, we knew we had the same kind of investigation, but we didn’t know we had the same individuals," Wilson said.

The men decided to work together to find the criminals.

They started assembling the jigsaw puzzle.

The suspects, particularly the man in that first Hamburg Tops video, provided a stream of cued-up clues, showing up frequently on the cameras of Big Box stores and, once investigators could connect names with faces, in their own social media posts wearing the same outfits, sunglasses and rings that were clearly visible on them in surveillance videos. This match of fraudulent transactions and social media posts helped investigators link locations, purchases, times and dates.

For example, one of the women arrested usually posted from Tampa, Fla., where she apparently lives with her two children, but on the day of at least one fraudulent purchase, she posted a picture of herself with a geo-location of Oakfield, NY. There's also a picture of her where the Walmart in Batavia is obviously identifiable in the background.

"The investigation was arduous, to say the least," Wilson said. "Every day was something new with them."

The primary suspects were working out of the house in Batavia and a house in Lockport. In order to get a search warrant, investigators needed rock-solid evidence of potential crimes. It couldn't be just a hunch.

Wilson started collecting garbage from the Batavia residence, which is how he came to realize there was obviously a marijuana growing operation going on there.

Much of the case was built before the search. Ippolito wanted a solid case to prosecute. Crime scene photos had to show faces clearly, clothing had to match, times and locations had to match, so the investigators had to cross-reference every shred of evidence and only use the receipts, photos and social media postings that wrapped up each accusation in a tight bow.

That's why the final criminal charges covered only a bit less than $100,000 in fraudulent transactions, even though in the time frame of the credit-card cloning operation, the suspects probably conducted transactions worth as much as $1 million.

That's also why there was neither a state nor federal charge for the marijuana growing operation. Too many people had access to the house in Batavia that there simply wasn't enough evidence to tie any one or two people specifically to cultivating pot.

As investigators were moving in, the suspects started moving further afield, with transactions popping up further and further east.

Wilson said he was getting nervous that the suspects were getting ready to wrap up operations in WNY and head back to Florida.

Then, they got caught.

Police in DeWitt, which is in Onondaga County, received a complaint from a store of a fraudulent credit card transaction and the suspects were still in the store.

Two subjects were picked up and questioned. It became clear to investigators that there were other individuals involved. They figured out what hotel they were staying at and what vans they were driving. The District Attorney got involved. Search warrants were obtained.

What investigators found were hundreds of credit card blanks, the hardware and software to make credit cards and evidence of prior purchases.

All six were arrested and charged in Onondaga County and the evidence obtained by investigators there helped seal the deal on search warrants for Batavia and Lockport.

"They did an amazing job in DeWitt," Wilson said.

While the U.S. District Attorney's Office has released information in the federal indictments and guilty pleas in the case, the scope of the case and its ties to Batavia, Lockport and DeWitt were not discussed openly pending convictions of five of the suspects.

Investigators believe members of the ring acquired the card numbers through two common methods: placing a scanner over the top of a card reader on a gas pump, allowing the card numbers and information to be read and stored in memory for later collection, and by purchasing numbers from hacker websites (often referred to as the "dark web").

As part of the surveillance during the investigation, one member of the group was observed placing a reader on a pump at a gas station in Oakfield. A week later, he retrieved it.

The dark websites allow credit-card cloners to search for high-limit cards within a certain geographic location. For the Cuban ring operating in Western New York, a card belonging to a resident in Oakfield or Batavia, for example, wouldn't raise suspicions for the bank or credit card company if used in Rochester or Buffalo, where a card issued to a resident in Nevada or California might. This would allow the scammers to get more use out of the card before it was shut off.

The ring members purchased merchandise, such as sunglasses, clothing and jewelry and gift cards and gasoline for later resale.

One member of the ring owned a Ford F-250 pickup with a plastic fuel tank that could hold 300 to 400 gallons of gas in the bed that had a hose and pump nozzle attached. At the time, gas was selling for about $4 per gallon, so a member of the ring would fill up the plastic tank and sell the gas for $2 or $2.50 a gallon, and since the initial purchase was with a stolen credit card, the proceeds were pure profit.

A seventh suspect is in custody and awaiting extradition from Costa Rica.

Below are the names and information on the people identified in the cases:

  • Jose Valdivia Quinones, 41, Cuban National from Tampa, convicted of bank fraud, was sentenced to 10 months in prison and required to pay $1,642.51 in restitution. He was known to investigators as "JVQ" and was one of the men captured in the surveillance video at Tops in Hamburg. He as also among the six indicted in Onondaga County (Town of DeWitt).
  • Eduardo Hernandez Quinones (Hernandez), 46, Cuban National and former resident of Miami, was convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and was sentenced to 31 months in prison. He was ordered to pay $13,785.29 in restitution. He was also arrested in DeWitt.
  • Misael Toledo Rios, 46, a Cuban National and former resident of Miami, was convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and was sentenced to 31 months in prison. He was ordered to pay $13,785.29 in restitution.
  • Yasser Carrillo Chartrand, 24, a Cuban National, entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in U.S. District Court. He's scheduled to be sentenced in September. He was also arrested in DeWitt.
  • Claudia Diaz Diaz, 22, a Cuban National, was convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and sentenced to time served and three years probation. Diaz was convicted of using the credit cards (79 different accounts), but not tied to the operation to obtain numbers and make cards. She was also among the six arrested in DeWitt.
  • Yaily Santurio Milian, 32, Cuban National, was convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. She was scheduled to be sentenced in May, but we don't have information on her sentencing. She was also arrested in DeWitt.
  • Fernando Pizarro, 38, of Miami Gardens, Fla., and Humberto Roche, who is homeless, were also arrested in DeWitt, but not charged federally.

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These two photos show one of the suspects wearing the same blue jacket in social media posts that she was seen wearing at a time and place where she used a cloned credit card.

File photo: An officer removing a marijuana plant from the house at 3618 Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road, Batavia, which served as a base of operation for members of the credit card cloning ring operating in Western New York.

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