BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Daren Lewis, 40, of Quincy, MA, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo to 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. Attorneys Justin G. Bish and Nicholas T. Cooper, who are 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 and the Erie County Sheriff's Office began investigating the shipment after its arrival in Tonawanda. At approximately 1:45 p.m. on July 13, 2020, the defendant arrived at an area cargo terminal in a U-Haul rental truck. After going inside the office, Lewis 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.
The plea 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 Sheriff Michael Filicetti.
Sentencing is scheduled for October 13, 2021, before Judge Vilardo.