Rochester Man Pleads to Drug Conspiracy Involving 1998 Murder
ROCHESTER, NY—U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Angelo Cruz, of Rochester, N.Y., 39, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 280 grams or more of crack cocaine before U.S. District judge Frank P. Geraci. The charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 20 years and a maximum of life, and a $10,000,000 fine.
“This case—like so many before it—demonstrates the success of using federal tools to combat violent gang activity,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “We will continue to be engaged in such investigations when appropriate situations arise.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Everardo A. Rodriguez, who is handling the case, stated that while pleading guilty in court to the drug charge the defendant also admitted to assisting in the murder of Francisco Santos at the Seneca Indian Reservation in Erie County, N.Y., in October 1998. The murder was part of a drug trafficking conspiracy in the Rochester area, which included cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin and marijuana, from 1993 to March 2011.
The victim, Francisco Santos, was a member of the drug distribution conspiracy and was believed to have stolen drugs and money from other members of the conspiracy. In retaliation for the theft, members of the conspiracy assaulted Santos and slashed Santos across the side of the head with a knife. Sometime after the beating, the co-conspirator who slashed Santos on the head was arrested for the assault.
To further retaliate for the original theft and to prevent Santos from testifying against the co-conspirator on the assault charge, Cruz admitted that he and a group of other co-conspirators found Santos and drove him to the Seneca Indian Reservation. Once at the reservation, they took Santos down a dirt path behind some trees where Santos was stabbed to death and buried in a shallow grave. Cruz admitted to having been present and observed Santos being stabbed while he was acting as a lookout.
Also charged in the Santos murder: James Kendrick, Pablo Plaza, born in 1972, Pablo Plaza, born in 1976, and Janine Plaza Pierce, the mother of Kendrick and the older Plaza. The trial of remaining defendants is expected to take place later this year and June 2016.
The plea is the culmination of a joint investigation on the part of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, New York Field Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Delano Reid, and the Rochester Police Department, Violent Crime Team/Firearms Suppression Unit, under the direction of Chief Michael Ciminelli. Numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies assisted in the investigation, including the New York State Police, under the direction of Major Craig Hanesworth; the Erie County Sheriff’s Department, under the direction of Sheriff Timothy B. Howard; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt, New York Field Division. Also assisting in the investigation was the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office, under the Direction of District Attorney Robert M. Carney.
Sentencing is scheduled for January 4, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. before Judge Geraci.