Raids in N.Y. net drugs, arms and seven suspects

By T.J. Pignataro
Buffalo News

NEW YORK — Six simultaneous drug raids Monday evening on the Lower West Side netted a cache of heroin, cocaine and weapons and led to the arrests of at least seven people, including a suspected member of a nationally known Latino gang, Buffalo police reported.

A caravan of dozens of law enforcement vehicles — including SWAT teams, K-9 units and officers from a variety of area agencies — mobilized at Front Park shortly before 6 p.m., then descended on targeted drug houses at 409 and 415 Seventh St., 349 Vermont St., 263 Whitney Place, 252 Trenton St. and 287 Busti Ave. to execute swift and precise raids.

The street value of all of the drugs seized was estimated to be about $75,000.

"We wanted to make a statement," said Inspector Michael F. Gaspar. "We executed simultaneous search warrants in one area."

The lightning-quick strikes and massive police presence at each of the houses raided took residents inside by surprise and drew neighbors out onto their porches and sidewalks to watch the heavily armored SWAT teams in action. The most significant seizure took place at 415 Seventh St., where drugs, a shotgun and cash were seized, police said.

"The raid targeted areas of the West Side — high crime areas — cocaine and heroin," said Michael J. DeGeorge, special assistant to City Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson. "They're looking to bring down a heroin network."

At least seven arrests were made by early evening Monday.

Included in those arrests was Frank Mitias, no age or address, who was one of the targets of the raids. He is "a possible member of the gang called the 'Latin Kings,' " which has a foothold nationwide, said DeGeorge.

The names of others arrested, as well as the quantity of drugs and weapons seized, was not immediately available.

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