ROCHESTER, N.Y.--U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Damion Colabatistto, 39, of Rochester, NY was convicted following a jury trial of murder, conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine, crack cocaine and heroin and possessing firearms during, in relation to and in furtherance of the narcotics conspiracy.
“This verdict concludes a prosecution involving one of the most violent group of defendants that Rochester has ever seen,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “Over the course of a decade, these defendants trafficked deadly drugs, brutally attacked those they perceived as threats, and were willing to murder without regard for might be harmed by their gunfire. The entire community should be proud of the extraordinary work of Assistant United States Attorneys Rodriguez and Marangola, and all who worked on this critically important prosecution. “
ATF Special Agent in Charge Ashan M. Benedict said, “Damion Colabatistto was an enforcer for a violent narcotics distribution organization who was responsible for many acts of violence in support of the group’s illicit activities in the greater Rochester area. That violence extended to innocent people, including Moesha Harmon, 20 years old, a mother of two small children, who was gunned down just a few days shy of her 21st birthday, when Colabatistto, attempting to kill a target of the organization, fired multiple times into the wrong house. Though no words can replace the love of a mother lost so senselessly and tragically, we hope that Colabatistto’s conviction brings some closure to Ms. Harmon’s children and the rest of her family. Those out there who use firearms to intimidate, injure, or kill should know that ATF and our law enforcement partners remain committed to seeing you arrested, convicted, and imprisoned. We would like to express our gratitude to the Rochester Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their dedication to this investigation.”
The murder conviction carries a maximum term of life in prison, the drug conspiracy a maximum term of 20 years in prison, and the firearms conviction carries a mandatory minimum five years in prison and a maximum of life, to run consecutive to the sentences imposed on the other counts of conviction.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Everardo A. Rodriguez and Melissa M. Marangola, who handled the prosecution of the case, stated that on July 26, 2009, the defendant and his former brother in law and friend Angelo Ocasio went to 137 Cameron Street looking to kill a rival drug dealer with whom Colabatistto and another co-conspirator had fought with the night before.
When they arrived at the house, Colabatistto and Ocasio shot and killed Moesha Harmon when she came to the upstairs window of the residence believing she was the rival drug dealer.
In May 2016, Angelo Ocasio was convicted following a jury trial in connection with the shooting of Meosha Harmon and of the underlying drug trafficking conspiracy. Ocasio will be sentenced on November 9, 2016.
During Colabatistto’s trial, the Government’s evidence established that one of the two guns used to murder Meosha Harmon was also used to murder Jose Troche on January 14, 2010 outside his house at 510 Augustine Street in Rochester. Jose Troche was a member of the drug distribution conspiracy along with Colabatistto and Ocasio. The drug conspiracy was headed by James Kendrick and his brother Pablo “Paul” Plaza. Troche was murdered because Kendrick and Plaza feared that Troche would cooperate against Kendrick in an ongoing narcotics prosecution. Colabatistto participated in the planning of the Troche murder and was the getaway driver when Paul Plaza shot Troche on the morning of January 14, 2010.
James Kendrick and Paul Plaza were tried in a separate seven-week trial in June and July of this year. They were each found guilty of the drug trafficking conspiracy and of several firearms offenses, including offenses relating to the murder of Jose Troche. Kendrick and Plaza were also found guilty of the murder of Francisco Santos in October 1998. Santos’ body was found in May 1999 buried on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in Erie County, NY.
James Kendrick was also found guilty of the murder of Ryan Cooper in the spring of 1999.
Cooper’s remains have never been found. Like Jose Troche, both Santos and Cooper (who was a cousin of Kendrick’s and Plaza’s) were murdered because Kendrick and Plaza believed they were disloyal members of the conspiracy who had cooperated with the police or were planning to do so. Kendrick and Plaza will be sentenced on November 22, 2016.
The drug conspiracy that Colabatistto and Ocasio were members of and was led by Kendrick and Plaza, was a large, long term and very violent drug distribution group. The group committed multiple beatings, shootings and murders to protect their drug operations and to retaliate against those who posed a danger to the conspiracy, including disloyal workers and rival drug dealers.
Damion Colabatistto’s conviction is the culmination of an investigation which commenced in 2010. As a result of the investigation and resulting prosecutions, four murders (Francisco Santos in 1998, Ryan Cooper in 1999, Meosha Harmon in 2009 and Jose Troche in 2010) have been solved and the responsible murderers have been brought to justice.
Altogether, 11 co-conspirators have been convicted in connection with the underlying drug distribution conspiracy and/or the firearms possessions and murders committed in furtherance of the conspiracy.
The conviction of Colabatistto and of his co-conspirators before him are the result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Ashan M. Benedict, New York Field Division, and the Rochester Police Department, under the direction of Chief Michael Ciminelli.