Coronavirus-stamped heroin/fentanyl glassines seized in the Bronx: Six individuals charged

Packaging mill produced over $1 million worth of individual dose envelopes stamped “Coronavirus,” “24 Black Mamba,” “Hiroshima,” “Isis,” “Antrax” and “95”

Bridget G. Brennan, New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, Ray Donovan, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) New York Division, New York City Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea and New York State Police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett announced the arrests of six individuals in connection with a large-scale alleged narcotics packaging and distribution network operating in the University Heights neighborhood of the Bronx.

A long-term investigation into a narcotics trafficking operation in New York City, with distribution throughout the Northeast, led to the seizure of approximately 120,000 glassine envelopes of suspected heroin/fentanyl worth over a million dollars, as well as $25,000 cash and drug packaging materials. A surveillance operation centered on defendant Dariel FERMIN, an alleged manager of the drug distribution network, led members of the DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force (NYDETF), Group T-12, and investigators with the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor to identify a packaging mill location at 2333 Loring Place North. Daniel FERMIN faces the top narcotics charge of Operating as a Major Trafficker.

At approximately 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 7, 2020, agents and investigators observed an individual later identified as Manuel MORILLO exit 2333 Loring Place North carrying a heavy brown bag and place the bag in a waiting livery car.  Surveillance units followed the cab away from the location and stopped it in the vicinity of the George Washington Bridge. The driver of the livery car was identified as Frank Gilberto MARTE URENA and a search of the brown bag yielded approximately 80,000 glassines of suspected heroin/fentanyl.

Surveillance continued at 2333 Loring Place North, where agents and investigators observed a female, later identified as Yamilka FERMIN, exit Apartment 3, carrying a heavy black bag.  Agents and investigators stopped her and recovered approximately 40,000 glassines and multiple zip lock bags containing loose powder suspected to be heroin/fentanyl from inside the bag. Soon afterwards, Dariel FERMIN, MORILLO and two other individuals left the apartment. Agents and investigators stopped these individuals and detained them while they obtained a warrant to search the apartment.

At approximately 10:15 p.m., members of NYDETF and the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor obtained a court authorized search warrant for 2333 Loring Place North, Apt. 3. Agents and officers recovered $25,000 cash from two bedrooms of the apartment, as well as all of the packaging equipment and paraphernalia typical of a heroin/fentanyl mill, such as strainers, grinders, gloves, stamps and ink pads.

Further review of the 120,000 heroin/fentanyl filled glassine envelopes seized from the two bags revealed they were stamped with several different brands including a stamp with the word “Coronavirus” next to a biohazard symbol and “24 Black Mamba” (an apparent reference to the death of Kobe Bryant), as well as “Hiroshima,” “Isis,” “Antrax” and “95.”

The DEA estimates the black market value of the suspected heroin/fentanyl at over $1 million. Results of laboratory analysis of the seized narcotics are pending. The narcotics are believed to have been destined for New York City and New Jersey.

The “Coronavirus” biohazard stamp and “24 Black Mamba” stamp are associated with multiple fatal overdoses in New Jersey. However, these deaths have not been linked to the packaging mill dismantled in this case.

Dariel FERMIN is charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree and Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia in the Second Degree. The five defendants arrested at the 2333 Loring Place North location are charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree and Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia in the Second Degree. Frank Gilberto MARTE URENA is charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree. The defendants are scheduled for arraignment this evening in Manhattan Criminal Court.

Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan thanked Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark and commended her office’s Special Investigations Bureau and Investigators Unit and the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, including members of the DEA, the New York City Police Department and the New York State Police, for their work on the case.

“As New York city and the metropolitan area lose thousands of loved ones to coronavirus, six people in the Bronx are charged with mixing and distributing more than a hundred thousand packets of fentanyl and heroin stamped with the name of the deadly virus, trying to capitalize of the pandemic’s lethal reputation,” said Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan. “Taking a million dollars’ worth of deadly drugs off the street is critical at this time, when isolation and fear make substance users ever more vulnerable.  A team of investigators and attorneys demonstrated remarkable dedication, following investigative leads to this successful conclusion, despite the added dangers of enforcement during a crisis of this magnitude, and I commend them.”

“Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we arrested six drug traffickers who aptly branded their product ‘coronavirus’,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan.  “Traffickers market their drugs like businesses, branding their product with stamps to attract users, like ’24 Black Mamba’; or use an ‘Antrax’ stamp to designate origins and reference enforcer gangs of the Sinaloa Cartel.  Today’s arrests send a message to traffickers that our mission is tantamount to keeping our streets safe for New Yorkers.  I applaud the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force and the New York City Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for their diligent work on this investigation.”

“There is no place in our city for illegal narcotics that undermine public safety and threaten lives. I thank our detectives, and our federal and local partners, for remaining determined in our mission to protect New Yorkers throughout this Coronavirus crisis,” said Police Commissioner Dermot Shea.

Superintendent Keith M. Corlett said, “It is because of the great police work done by the NYDETF and NYC Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor that multiple suspects are behind bars and a dangerous operation shut down.  We were able to seize a large quantity of heroin as a result of this investigation, drugs that could cost lives. I thank our partners on this case, because of this partnership law enforcement has once again put an end to a violent enterprise, and made our streets safer.”

The charges and allegations are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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Contacts:

Kati Cornell

Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office

(212) 815-0525

Erin Mulvey

DEA New York Division

(212) 337-2906

Beau Duffy

New York State Police

(518) 457-2180

Richard Esposito

New York City Police Department

(646) 610-6700

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