Guilty Plea Brings End To Historic Narcotics Case

Juan Pacheco Jr.

A Jamestown man at the center of the largest narcotics bust in Chautauqua County’s history pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Buffalo. The plea from 36-year-old Juan Pacheco Jr. in front of Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo on Thursday brings to end a case that shocked local police and helped snuff out a cocaine and methamphetamine distribution ring originating in Mexico.

Pacheco is facing a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, with a maximum of life, and a $10 million fine when he is sentenced by Vilardo on Oct. 31 in Buffalo.

Federal prosecutors said the Jamestown man was receiving “kilogram quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine” from California that were smuggled into the country from Mexico. Just this week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office — in a joint announcement with the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Jamestown police — announced 16 people were charged in a similar methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy dubbed “Operation Meltdown” involving narcotics coming from Mexico and ending up in the Jamestown area.

Pacheco was arrested Aug. 18, 2016, at his South Main Street stash house in Jamestown in which police seized 15 kilos of drugs worth $2.4 million. Specifically, investigators found 9 kilos (19.8 pounds) of cocaine with a street value of $2 million; 3.5 kilos (7.7 pounds) of methamphetamine with a street value of $300,000; 2.5 kilos (5.5 pounds) of marijuana with a street value of $35,000; and almost $140,000 in cash.

Pacheco pleaded guilty two weeks before the start of a jury trial in the case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press release.

Harry Snellings, Jamestown police chief, said his department was “extremely pleased” with Thursday’s announcement, noting that the 2016 raid resulted in the largest individual narcotics seizure in the county’s history. Snellings also praised the work of officers and agencies that assisted in the case.

“The investigators from the Jamestown Metro Drug Task Force and New York State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team did an excellent job putting this case together,” Snellings said in a statement to The Post-Journal. “Given the potential sentence for the charge, and Pacheco pleading guilty, speaks volumes of their work in this case.”

“I want to thank the Ellicott Police Department and the NYSP CNET for their continued partnership in our task force,” he continued, “along with the DEA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their assistance in prosecuting this case.”

Michael Felicetta and Joel Violent, assistant U.S. attorneys, have been handling the case.