Nearly 20 Pounds of Fentanyl and Heroin Seized from an Apartment on Central Park West in Manhattan and a Vehicle: One Firearm
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, New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent-in-Charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II announced the seizure of approximately nine kilograms (nearly 20 pounds) of suspected fentanyl and heroin from an apartment building across the street from Central Park in Manhattan, N.Y. and from a vehicle. Four defendants are charged.
On August 4, 2017 at approximately 3:35 p.m., members of the DEA Strike Force, Financial Investigations Team (FIT), and the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s (SNP) Investigators Unit were conducting surveillance in the vicinity of 448 Central Park West, an apartment building at the corner of 105th Street, when they observed defendant DAVID RODRIGUEZ, exiting the building carrying two boxes inside a large white shopping bag. DAVID RODRIGUEZ then got into the backseat of a black Honda Accord driven by RICHARD RODRIGUEZ, an Uber driver. Members of FIT followed the vehicle to 121st Street and Amsterdam Avenue.
Agents and investigators stopped the vehicle and observed DAVID RODRIGUEZ sitting in the backseat with the two boxes. One box was open and a clear plastic bag containing a tan powdery substance was visible inside. Upon closer inspection of the larger of the two boxes, agents and investigators saw six large cylindrical packages wrapped in tape and plastic wrap in addition to the plastic bag of tan powder. The smaller box contained one large cylindrical package wrapped in tape and plastic wrap and one clear plastic bag containing a tan powdery substance. Agents and investigators seized these packages, which contained a suspected combination of fentanyl and heroin. DAVID RODRIGUEZ and RICHARD RODRIGUEZ were placed under arrest.
Members of FIT and SNP investigators continued surveillance at 448 Central Park West. At approximately 5 p.m., agents and officers observed JESUS PEREZ-CABRAL and JOHNNY BELTREZ exiting the building. Based on intelligence developed during the investigation, agents and officers identified PEREZ-CABRAL as an alleged member of the narcotics trafficking organization and approached him. PEREZ-CABRAL told members of FIT that he lived at 448 Central Park West, Apt. 6D, and admitted to having a gun and drugs inside the apartment.
The Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor (SNP) obtained a search warrant for 448 Central Park West, Apt. 6D. During a court authorized search of the residence, officers and investigators recovered two large ziplock bags containing approximately three kilograms of a suspected fentanyl and heroin combination from inside a hall closet, as well as 1,100 individual dose glassine envelopes that had been filled with powder and stamped with the brand name “UBER.” Agents and officers found a loaded .25 caliber Beretta pistol wedged between two couch cushions. Also recovered from the apartment were $30,000 in cash, several identification cards for other individuals, multiple cellphones and ledgers. In addition, supplies and paraphernalia consistent with a heroin/fentanyl packaging mill were seized including: stamps, rubber bands, folding tables, boxes of ziplock bags, a heat sealing device, gloves, masks, and empty glassines branded “Panda,” “Black Friday” and “Wild Card.”
A dangerously strong synthetic opioid, fentanyl is approximately 50 times stronger than heroin and is increasingly found mixed into the illicit narcotics supply in New York City. According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, fentanyl is driving a spike in fatal overdoses, which reached an all-time high of 1,374 deaths in New York City in 2016 – a 46% increase over 2015.
The narcotics have been submitted to the DEA New York Division laboratory for testing. The street value of the drugs seized is estimated at a minimum of $3 million, but could be millions of dollars more depending on the potency and proportion of fentanyl to heroin.
The defendants were arraigned on August 5, 2017 in Manhattan Criminal Court. Bail was set at the following amounts: PEREZ-CABRAL, $100,000; DAVID RODRIGUEZ, $200,000; JOHNNY BELTREZ, $10,000; RICHARD RODRIGUEZ, $1,000.
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan thanked her office’s Special Investigations Bureau (SIB) and Investigators Unit, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) New York Division, the New York City Police Department (NYPD), all of the participants in the New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force and the New York City Sheriff’s Office.
The New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force, Financial Investigations Team (FIT), is comprised of agents and officers of the DEA, the New York City Police Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the New York State Police, the U. S. Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, New York National Guard, the Clarkstown Police Department, U.S. Coast Guard, Port Washington Police Department and New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. The Strike Force is partially funded by the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), which is a federally funded crime fighting initiative and part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program.
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said, “The volume of heroin and highly potent fentanyl entering New York City is staggering, but so is the amount being removed from the streets as a result of successful collaborations between law enforcement partners. In this case millions of dollars in suspected heroin and fentanyl was seized just steps from Central Park, a top destination for New Yorkers and tourists alike. By reducing the supply of these dangerous drugs, we are saving lives and sending a clear message that those who seek to profit by peddling poison will be put out of business and brought to justice.”
DEA Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt stated, “"Fentanyl is the deadliest street drug to ever hit this country. This seizure alone contains enough potency to kill half of the population of New York City, if laboratory analysis proves it is all fentanyl. Fentanyl is manufactured death that drug dealers are mixing with heroin. I commend the brave men and women in law enforcement who are risking their lives tracking down this toxin before it contributes to more fatal overdoses.”
“The individuals arrested in this case engaged in the trafficking and distribution of heroin and fentanyl, a deadly combination of opioids. We will continue to work with our partners to aggressively target persons who peddle these lethal poisons in our communities,” said New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said, “Fentanyl is so deadly that there were more overdose deaths than homicides in New York last year. The availability of the drug—which may be combined with other drugs, often unbeknownst to users—has exponentially increased the life-threatening risks of abusing narcotic substances, leading to an extreme public safety crisis that necessitates a swift and committed reaction from law enforcement and health officials. I commend the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office and our partners for their commitment to keeping New Yorkers safe.”
“These individuals are alleged to be transporting close to 20 pounds of the highly addictive drugs of fentanyl and heroin, valued in the millions, through our city streets. It is a tragedy that with fatal overdoses at an all-time high, there is no shortage of demand for these opioids,” said Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent in Charge of HSI New York. “HSI will continue to partner with the DEA, and other local and federal law enforcement agencies, to relentlessly track and arrest the suppliers and street dealers pushing these drugs into our communities.”
New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, “Through close collaboration with our federal and local partners, we have seized a large amount of deadly fentanyl-laced heroin and made multiple arrests. I commend our members and those from the involved law enforcement agencies for their hard work preventing more illegal drugs from reaching our streets.”
The charges and allegations are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Download Press Release
Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office
New York City Police Department
New York State Police
DEA New York Division
Rachael Yong Yow
ICE HSI New York