Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney's Office
Western District of New York
For Immediate Release
Monday, March 27, 2017
, United States Attorney
James P. Kennedy, Jr.
Contact: Barbara Burns
Rochester Man Sentenced to Life in Prison Plus Five Years for Murder and Narcotics and Firearms Offenses
New York Field Division
ROCHESTER, N.Y.—Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Damion Colabatistto, 40, of Rochester, NY, having been convicted following a jury trial of murder, conspiracy to distribute cocaine, crack cocaine, and heroin, and the use of firearms in furtherance of a drug conspiracy, was sentenced to life in prison plus five 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 on July 26, 2009, Colabatistto, and his former brother-in-law and friend, Angelo Ocasio, went to 137 Cameron Street looking to kill a rival drug dealer with whom Colabatistto and another co-conspirator had fought the night before. When they arrived at the house, Colabatistto and Ocasio shot and killed Meosha Harmon when she came to the upstairs window of the residence. The two mistakenly believed that Ms. Harmon was the rival drug dealer.
Angelo Ocasio, was also convicted following a jury trial in connection with the shooting of Meosha Harmon and of the underlying drug trafficking conspiracy. Ocasio was also sentenced to life in prison.
During Colabatistto’s trial, the government’s evidence established that one of the two guns used to murder Meosha Harmon was also used to murder Jose Troche on January 14, 2010, outside his house at 510 Augustine Street in Rochester. Jose Troche was a member of the drug distribution conspiracy along with Colabatistto and Ocasio. The drug conspiracy was headed by James Kendrick and his brother Pablo “Paul” Plaza. Troche was murdered because Kendrick and Plaza feared that Troche would cooperate against Kendrick in an ongoing narcotics prosecution. Colabatistto participated in the planning of the Troche murder and was the getaway driver when Paul Plaza shot Troche on the morning of January 14, 2010.
The drug conspiracy to which Colabatistto and Ocasio belonged was led by Kendrick and Plaza, and it was a large, long-term, and very violent drug distribution group. The group committed multiple beatings, shootings, and murders to protect their drug operations and to retaliate against those who posed a danger to the conspiracy, including disloyal workers and rival drug dealers.
James Kendrick and Paul Plaza were tried in a separate, seven-week trial and were each found guilty of the drug trafficking conspiracy and of several firearms offenses, including offenses relating to the murder of Jose Troche. Kendrick and Plaza were also found guilty of the murder of Francisco Santos in October 1998. Santos’ body was found in May 1999 buried on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in Erie County, NY. James Kendrick was also found guilty of the murder of Ryan Cooper in the spring of 1999. Cooper’s remains have never been found. Like Jose Troche, both Santos and Cooper (who was a cousin of Kendrick’s and Plaza’s) were murdered because Kendrick and Plaza believed they were disloyal members of the conspiracy who had cooperated with the police or were planning to do so.
Paul Plaza and James Kendrick have also been sentenced to life in prison.
Damion Colabatistto’s conviction is the culmination of an investigation that commenced in 2010. As a result of the investigation and resulting prosecutions, four murders (Francisco Santos in 1998, Ryan Cooper in 1999, Meosha Harmon in 2009 and Jose Troche in 2010) have been solved and the responsible murderers have been brought to justice. Altogether, 11 co-conspirators have been convicted in connection with the underlying drug distribution conspiracy and/or illegal firearms possession, and murders committed in furtherance of the conspiracy.
The conviction of Colabatistto and of his co-conspirators is the result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Ashan Benedict, New York Field Division; and the Rochester Police Department, under the direction of Chief Michael Ciminelli.