Drugs and money concealed in furniture for transportation between Texas, New York and Massachusetts
Bridget G. Brennan, New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, James J. Hunt, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) New York Division, Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York, New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, George P. Beach II, Superintendent of the New York State Police and Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark, announced today the arrest of three members of a narcotics trafficking group and the seizure of over $4.1 million and three kilograms of heroin (over six pounds) from a storage unit in the Bronx and a U-Haul truck.
The arrests are the result of a long-term investigation by agents and officers with the DEA New York Drug Enforcement Task Force (DETF) Group T-31 and U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York El Dorado Task Force Group 3.
A criminal complaint filed by the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office charges Bronx-based ringleader JORGE PIZARRO and co-defendants NELSON DEJESUS and MIGUEL ANGELES with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First and Third Degrees. The defendants were arrested the night of Saturday, March 18, 2017, in the vicinity of a Secure Self Storage, located at 1037 Zerega Avenue in the Bronx. Yesterday agents and officers conducted additional court authorized searches of a U-Haul and a Dodge Caravan that were seized from the location at the time of the defendants’ arrests.
At the outset of the investigation, members of HSI’s El Dorado Group 3 learned that PIZARRO allegedly oversaw an interstate narcotics trafficking operation that transported large quantities of heroin from Texas for sale in New York City and Lawrence, Mass. Shipments of narcotics were concealed inside furniture that PIZARRO stored inside Secure Self Storage, unit #2064, which was leased in his name. Members of HSI and DETF developed further intelligence that PIZARRO also transported large quantities of cash to pay for the narcotics from New York City back to Texas inside the same wooden furniture.
Members of DETF Group T-31 established surveillance targeting storage unit #2064 and PIZARRO. Agents and officers learned that PIZARRO and DEJESUS moved furniture in and out of the storage unit on a near-monthly basis. PIZARRO also travelled between New York City and Lawrence, Mass.
On Saturday, March 18, 2017, agents and officers with DETF and HSI observed PIZARRO and DEJESUS moving multiple pieces of furniture into and out of the unit. At approximately 12:30 a.m., PIZARRO moved several pieces of furniture, including two wooden nightstands, into the storage unit. The Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor obtained a court authorized search warrant for the location.
That night at approximately 9:25 p.m., PIZARRO, DEJESUS and ANGELES were observed returning to the Secure Self Storage in two vehicles, a black Dodge Caravan driven by PIZARRO and a large U-Haul truck. The three defendants went in and out of the storage unit, loading multiple pieces of furniture into the U-Haul truck. Members of DETF Group T-31 approached the storage unit with a New York State Police K9 that alerted positively to the presence of narcotics.
Agents and officers executed the search warrant on storage unit #2064 and recovered three kilograms of heroin (over six pounds) from one nightstand and approximately $750,000 cash from a second wooden nightstand. Both nightstands were outfitted with hidden compartments. Agents and officers seized the Dodge Caravan and the U-Haul truck.
Yesterday, agents and officers executed additional search warrants that were obtained by the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office for the vehicles. Inside the U-Haul truck, agents and officers found three pieces of wooden furniture that contained approximately $3.4 million dollars in cash wrapped in dozens of packages. The pieces of furniture were outfitted with secret compartments. The Dodge Caravan contained a large empty compartment in the floor. A bottle of fox urine, intended to be used to disguise the smell of narcotics, was recovered from the glove compartment. Agents and officers learned that the U-Haul had been rented in Lawrence, Mass. by an unapprehended individual who is also the owner of record for the Dodge Caravan.
All three defendants were arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court and held on bail set in the following amounts: $750,000 for PIZARRO, $300,000 for DEJESUS and $100,000 for ANGELES.
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan thanked her office’s Special Investigations Bureau and members of the DEA’s Drug Enforcement Task Force Group T-31 and the HSI’s El Dorado Task Force Group 3. Ms. Brennan also thanked Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark for continued collaboration on narcotics-related investigations.
DETF Group T-31 is comprised of agents and officers from the DEA, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the New York State Police. HSI’s El Dorado Task Force Group 3 is comprised of agents and officers with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the DEA, the NYPD, the New York State Police, the Fort Lee, N.J. Police Department, the Suffolk County Sherriff’s Office, the MTA Police, the Yonkers Police Department, the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said, “This investigation demonstrates how lucrative and highly organized the lethal narcotics trade has become. With this seizure, we intercepted not only three kilograms of heroin, but over $4.1 million dollars that likely would have been used to purchase another 65 kilograms. The potential toll on human lives represented by this amount of drug money, carefully packaged and hidden in hydraulic compartments for interstate traffickers, cannot be measured. I thank our law enforcement partners for their dedication and diligence in preventing substantial amounts of heroin from hitting the streets.”
DEA Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt stated, “Drug traffickers hid in plain sight carting drug and money-laden furniture cross country. This isn’t the first time drug traffickers have used ingenious methods to smuggle drugs, but it was a well-planned scheme. The organization thought of every detail, from adding a tricycle to their stash of furniture in order to appear like a relocating family, to spraying the contents with repellant to ward off police K-9 units. By seizing this money, law enforcement has denied Mexican drug traffickers over $4 million of profit off their poison.”
"Using furniture that contained hidden compartments, these individuals ran a large interstate drug trafficking organization that flooded our streets with heroin,” said Angel Melendez, Special Agent in Charge HSI New York. “The seizure of over $4 million dollars in US currency shows how lucrative the drug trade is but also severely hinders the drug traffickers who were supposed to receive it.”
Superintendent George P. Beach II said, "The work of the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force and the ICE-HSI El Dorado Task Force has stopped a significant amount of heroin before it can reach our communities in New York State, and put the three people responsible behind bars. These drugs destroy communities and put lives at risk. I want to thank our partners for their continued dedication to tracking illegal drugs and intercepting them at their source before they can be distributed on our streets."
“Many thanks to the detectives and agents who intercepted three kilos of heroin and $4 million in cash bound for the streets of New York City,” said Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill. “This type of precision enables us to prevent crime and overdoses, saving lives.”
Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said, “We will continue to work with the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan to rid the streets of Bronx County of heroin and other dangerous drugs, as well as those who profit from poisoning our residents.”
The charges and allegations are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.Download Press Release
Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office
Rachael Yong Yow
ICE HSI New York
New York City Police Department
DEA New York Division
New York State Police