Two Charged in Scheme to Smuggle Heroin from Chicago to New York City inside Tomato Boxes

Tomatoes covered boxes concealing heroin      Organization concealed heroin in cardboard boxes containing tomatoes

Over 22 pounds of heroin with a street value of more than $3 million

Bridget G. Brennan, New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, James J. Hunt, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) New York Division, New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. announced today the arrest and indictment of two individuals in connection with a conspiracy to traffic heroin between Chicago, Ill. and New York City.

Defendants ABEL ABAD and DAVID COLLAZO are scheduled to be arraigned today before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Abraham Clott, Part 61, 111 Centre Street, on an indictment charging both with Conspiracy in the Second Degree and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First and Third Degrees. ABAD faces the additional charge of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree. The indictment is a result of an investigation by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor and DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force (NYDETF), Group T-12, which is comprised of agents and officers from DEA, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the New York State Police. DEA Chicago Division Group 31 and DEA Brownsville RO Group D-86 provided assistance in the investigation.

ABAD and COLLAZO were arrested on May 1, 2018 after agents and investigators recovered 10 kilograms of heroin (over 22 pounds) in New York City and Fort Lee, N.J. Acting on intelligence, agents tracked the pair as they travelled through New Jersey in two separate vehicles – ABAD in a 2007 Dodge Caliber with Illinois license plates and COLLAZO in a rented U-Haul van with Arizona license plates. At approximately 5:14 p.m., both vehicles stopped at a Best Western Hotel on Route 4 in Fort Lee, N.J., at which point the two men entered a second floor hotel room. Less than an hour later, investigators observed ABAD and COLLAZO leave the hotel, with ABAD carrying a cardboard box.

Agents followed as the pair entered the Dodge and drove off, crossing the George Washington Bridge into Upper Manhattan. At approximately 6:25 p.m., agents and investigators stopped the vehicle in the vicinity of the Henry Hudson Parkway and 158th Street. Agents observed the cardboard box in the rear passenger area and recovered a plastic bag containing two kilograms of alleged heroin (over four pounds). ABAD was also in possession of an alleged forged driver’s license bearing a false name.

Following the arrests, agents and investigators returned to the Best Western with a New York State Police K-9 Unit, which alerted to the presence of narcotics inside the U-Haul still parked at the hotel. Agents recovered several boxes of raw tomatoes inside the back of the van. A search of the boxes revealed false bottoms concealing eight kilograms of alleged heroin (nearly 18 pounds) packaged in a similar fashion to the two kilograms recovered from the Dodge.

The investigation revealed that the heroin inside the U-Haul was destined for a customer in the Bronx. Agents learned that the load of narcotics had been packed into the tomato boxes in Chicago before making its way to New York. Additional intelligence led to a law enforcement seizure in Chicago of multiple kilograms of heroin and multiple grams of cocaine. The DEA estimates the street value of the more than 22 pounds of heroin recovered in New York City and Fort Lee, N.J. to be over $3 million.

Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan thanked Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. and commended the work of her office’s Special Investigations Bureau, DEA New York Division, the New York City Police Department, the New York State Police, the DEA’s Brownsville RO and the Chicago Division.

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

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Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office
Kati Cornell
(212) 815-0997

New York City Police Department
Phillip Walzak
(646) 610-6700

Erin Mulvey
DEA New York Division
(212) 337-2906