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Armed drug trafficker pleads guilty

STAFF REPORTS


ROCHESTER -- William Cooke, 22, of Rochester, NY, pleaded guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr. to possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum of life, and a fine of $1,000,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Moynihan, who is handling the case, stated that Cooke was arrested after Rochester police officers stopped a car, in which Cooke was riding, in the area of Scrantom Street and Conkey Avenue. As officers stopped the car, the defendant jumped from the rear passenger seat and fled, causing officers to chase after him.  During the chase, officers could see a black object in Cooke’s hand as he pulled his hand half way from his jacket pocket. Officers only lost sight of Cooke for a brief period of time during the chase as he rounded the corner of a house on Clifford Avenue.

After apprehending the defendant, officers found a loaded defaced semiautomatic pistol on the ground in the area where officers momentarily lost sight of Cooke. Officers arrested Cooke and placed him in a room at the Clinton Section police offices. While the defendant was in the room, officers could see him through the use of a video camera surveillance system climb onto a table in the room. Officers quickly confronted Cooke, who was already sitting back down when they entered the room. However, officers could see blue bags protruding from the ceiling and electrical junction above the table where Cooke was standing moments before. Officers removed a total of 27 baggies of suspected heroin. Subsequent testing determined the substance was fentanyl and acetyl-fentanyl.

The case was brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office as part of its Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative. PSN is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

The plea is the result of an investigation by the Rochester Police Department, under the direction of Chief Mark Simmons, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Ashan Benedict, New York Field Division.

Sentencing is scheduled for March 11, 2019, at 2:00 p.m. before Judge Geraci.