Couple caught with drugs

BUFFALO — Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced Tuesday Minerva Maestre, 49, and Hector Mercado-Torres, 23, both of Dunkirk, were arrested and charged by complaint with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine and crack cocaine; and maintaining a drug involved premises. The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum of 40 years and a $5,000,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Lynch, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, on April 28, the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force and the Drug Enforcement Administration executed a search warrant at 51 E. Second St. in Dunkirk, which is the residence of the defendants. During the search, officers seized 18 packages of suspected crack cocaine and cocaine, plastic baggies and $171,962 in cash. The complaint further alleges that defendants distributed crack cocaine from the residence.

The defendants made an initial appearance this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy and are being held pending a detention hearing.

The complaint is the result of an investigation by the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force, under the direction of Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace; the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt, New York Field Division; and the Dunkirk Police Department, under the direction of Chief David Ortolano.

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.