DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

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

For Immediate Release

Monday, December 19, 2016
James P. Kennedy, Jr.
, United States Attorney
Contact: Barbara Burns

Rochester Drug Dealer Sentenced for His Role in Two Murders

ROCHESTER, N.Y.—Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that James Kendrick, who was convicted by a federal jury of the murders of Francisco Santos and Ryan Cooper, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute large quantities of illegal narcotics, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of the drug conspiracy, was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years by Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Everardo A. Rodriguez and Melissa M. Marangola, who handled the prosecution of the case, stated that Kendrick and his brother Pablo "Paul" Plaza, 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, Kendrick, Plaza 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. Kendrick and Plaza 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.  James Kendrick was also found guilty of murdering Ryan Cooper in the spring of 1999.  Cooper’s remains have never been found.  Like Santos, Cooper (who was a cousin of Kendrick’s and Plaza’s) was murdered because Kendrick and Plaza believed he was going to cooperate with the police in the investigation of Kendrick’s and Plaza’s drug conspiracy and in the murder of Santos.

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 Kendrick and Plaza 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, Kendrick and Plaza 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 in July 2009, 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 when she came to the upstairs window of the residence, erroneously believing her to be the rival drug dealer.  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.

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 James Kendrick 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