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Guilty pleas in cases of drugs, murder

Brothers admit their roles in cocaine ring conspiracy

LOCKPORT - Guilty pleas were accepted in several major cases Wednesday in Niagara County Court, including one from a key figure in an alleged cocaine ring centered in Mr. Sepe's Pizzeria as well as by an accomplice charged in the Jan. 27, 2004, shooting death of a Grand Island teenager.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Patricia I. Carrington of the federal organized crime task force said Russell Sepe was "a definite major player."

Sepe, with his brother Christopher J., owned Mr. Sepe's Pizza at 2107 Main St., Niagara Falls, where police say the ring was headquartered.

Russell Sepe, 37, of Linwood Avenue, pleaded guilty to attempted conspiracy second-degree, a felony, and fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance.

Another brother, Paul A., 39, of Linwood Avenue, was believed to have had a much smaller role.

He pleaded guilty to fourth-degree conspiracy, also a felony.

Sentencing for both men was set for Sept. 13 by County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperazza.

Christopher J. Sepe, who pleaded guilty in February, was among the first of the 48 suspects rounded up in a Nov. 10 drug sweep to plead guilty.

Carrington said the plea deal reduced felony charges against Russell Sepe that would have carried a maximum sentence of 25 years.

The attorneys for the approximately 30 remaining defendants contend there are so many legal errors in the case that the charges against their clients should be reduced.

Sperazza is expected to rule Friday on the matter, but Carrington said the ruling was unlikely to affect the cases of the brothers who pleaded guilty Wednesday.

In another case, Peter Longo Jr., 19, of Ward Park, Grand Island, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter.

Longo had been charged with second-degree murder as an accomplice in the shooting death of Eric H. Lloyd, 18.

In accepting the plea deal, the court committed to a 7-year sentence for Longo.

Assistant District Attorney Holly Sloma said Longo will be sentenced on Aug. 10 by Sperazza.

Lloyd was shot during what police called a drug-related robbery attempt in the Pelican Motel on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Niagara Falls.

He died March 9.

Nicholas P. Hernandez of Buffalo admitted to the shooting and was promised a reduced sentence of 20 years for telling investigators that Longo and Jeffrey D. Cornman Jr., of Buffalo, had acted as accomplices. After Cornman accepted a plea deal of first-degree manslaughter in April, Sperazza agreed to a lowered prison sentence of 10 years.

Sentencing was set for July 19.

Had Longo or Cornman been convicted of the second-degree murder charge, the two young men would have faced maximum prison sentences of 25 years to life.