DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Western District of New York

For Immediate Release

Thursday, December 1, 2016
James P. Kennedy, Jr.
, United States Attorney
Contact: Barbara Burns

Rochester Drug Dealer Sentenced for His Role in Three Murders

ROCHESTER, N.Y.—Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Pablo "Paul" Plaza, who was convicted by a federal jury of the murder of Francisco Santos, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute large quantities of illegal narcotics, and possession and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of the drug conspiracy, was sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years by Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr.

Acting U.S. Attorney Kennedy, crediting his trial team of AUSAs Rodriguez and Marangola and the ATF Agents and RPD Officers who worked tirelessly to put this case together, noted that “although justice was a long-time coming in this case, it is fitting that, in the end, it was delivered with a measure of permanence.”

ATF Special Agent in Charge Ashan M. Benedict said, “The sentencing of Pablo Paul Plaza to life imprisonment plus 10 years for his role in three murders while engaged in a drug trafficking conspiracy demonstrates that though justice may at times be delayed, it will not be denied. The passage of time will not lessen the resolve of ATF and our law enforcement partners to ensure that violent criminals meet their inevitable fate of a cell in a State or Federal penitentiary. It is our sincerest hope that Plaza’s sentencing, and the expected sentencings of his co-conspirators, brings some solace and closure to Ms. Harmon’s family, and the families of the other victims of this violent organization.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Everardo A. Rodriguez and Melissa M. Marangola, who handled the prosecution of the case, stated that Plaza and his brother James Kendrick spearheaded a long term, violent narcotics trafficking ring in the City of Rochester between 1993 through and including March 2011. To protect the conspiracy and its members from other drug dealers and those deemed to be disloyal workers, Plaza, Kendrick, and others in the conspiracy resorted to violence including beatings and murder.  

Specifically, Francisco Santos, a/k/a “Cisco,” was murdered in October 1998. Santos’ body was found in May 1999 buried on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in Erie County, NY. Santos was a worker for Plaza and Kendrick and was murdered because the defendants believed he betrayed the organization by stealing drugs, cash and guns. Plaza and Kendrick initially retaliated by conducting a drive-by shooting at the residence of Santos’ father, step-mother and sisters, who were four and six years old at the time.

During the trial, the Government presented evidence of additional acts of violence including the murder of Jose Troche on January 14, 2010. The Government’s proof established that Plaza and Kendrick planned and executed the murder of Troche because they feared that Troche, also a member of the conspiracy, was planning to cooperate in the prosecution of the defendants. In connection with the Troche murder, Plaza and Kendrick decided that Kendrick, in an effort to fabricate an alibi, would go to a local supermarket and be seen on camera at the time of Troche’s murder. 

In addition, the Government presented evidence that Plaza directed co-conspirators Damion Colabatistto, Angelo Ocasio and others to murder a rival drug dealer who injured Plaza in a fight. Colabatistto and Ocasio went to 137 Cameron Street looking for the rival drug dealer. When they arrived at the house, the two men shot and killed Meosha Harmon, erroneously believing her to be the rival drug dealer, when she came to the upstairs window of the residence. Colabatistto and Ocasio were tried in separate trials and both were convicted for their roles in the conspiracy and murder of Harmon and are awaiting sentencing.

James Kendrick was also convicted of drug conspiracy and the murders of Francisco Santos and of Ryan Cooper. Nine other defendants involved in the drug conspiracy were charged and convicted of various drug and firearms offenses and of other violent crimes.  Plaza’s younger brother, also named Pablo, was previously convicted of participating in the murder of Francisco Santos.

The sentencing of Pablo “Paul” Plaza is the result of a joint investigation consisting of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Ashan Benedict, Special Agent-in-Charge, New York Field Division, and the Rochester Police Department, Violent Crime Team/Firearms Suppression Unit, under the direction of Chief Michael Ciminelli. 


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New York Field Division