Investigations Lead Law Enforcement to Recover 270 Pounds of Fentanyl, Heroin and Cocaine with a Street Value of over $30 Million
NYC’s Record Large Seizure of Fentanyl in Queens: Up to 32 Million Lethal Doses
Bridget G. Brennan, New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) New Jersey Division, New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown and Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark today announced the seizure of 122 kilograms of narcotics (nearly 270 pounds) with a street value of over $30 million, including 64 kilograms (over 140 pounds) of pure fentanyl, as a result of two investigations. Four defendants are charged.
Both investigations were conducted by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, DEA New Jersey Division (NJ-DEA) and the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) Queens Narcotics Major Case Squad. Over the past week, the NYPD laboratory issued final reports on its analysis of all of the drugs confiscated. On August 1, 2017, DEA agents and NYPD detectives recovered a total of 97 kilograms (213 pounds) of narcotics, including fentanyl, heroin and cocaine, at an apartment building in Kew Gardens, Queens. An additional 25 kilograms of fentanyl and heroin (55 pounds) were recovered from a vehicle in the Bronx on September 5, 2017.
These cases highlight the enormous amount of fentanyl surging through New York City, hitting the streets and escalating overdose deaths. 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 – 46% more than in 2015. A dangerously strong synthetic opioid, fentanyl is approximately 50 times stronger than heroin and is increasingly found mixed into the city’s illicit narcotics supply.
NYC’s Largest Fentanyl Seizure: 85-15 120th Street, Kew Gardens
On August 1, 2017, agents and detectives from NJ-DEA and the NYPD’s Queens Narcotics Major Case Squad recovered the record largest amount of fentanyl to date New York City – 64 kilograms of pure fentanyl (over 140 pounds) – from a residential building at 85-15 120th Street in Kew Gardens. In addition to the pure fentanyl, agents and detectives recovered 22 kilograms of fentanyl mixed with other narcotics, five kilograms of heroin and six kilograms of cocaine, for a total of 97 kilograms of narcotics (213 pounds).
Prior to the search, NJ-DEA agents observed ROGELIO ALVARADO-ROBLES and BLANCA FLORES-SOLIS driving in a silver Mercedes-Benz with Florida license plates as they traveled to a Walmart in Manahawkin, N.J. In the Walmart parking lot, ALVARADO-ROBLES took a shopping bag from an unidentified male and then joined FLORES-SOLIS, who had already entered the Walmart. Inside the Walmart, ALVARADO-ROBLES placed the shopping bag into a backpack that FLORES-SOLIS had been carrying. Both then left the Walmart and returned to their car, into which ALVARADO-ROBLES placed the backpack. After several other stops along the way, ALVARADO-ROBLES and FLORES-SOLIS travelled to 85-15 120th Street, Queens, and pulled into the garage of that building. After they parked, agents approached them and recovered what appeared to be one kilogram of cocaine from the backpack.
Agents and detectives determined that ALVARADO-ROBLES and FLORES-SOLIS were associated with 85-15 120th Street, Apt. 4F, and went to the apartment above the underground parking lot in order to secure the location. At approximately 9 p.m., agents and detectives obtained a court authorized search warrant and conducted a search. On the floor of one of the bedrooms were four suitcases and a purse, which were found to contain numerous kilogram-sized packages of narcotics. The packages were wrapped in several different colors of plastic wrap and tape. Agents and detectives removed the contraband.
Subsequent NYPD laboratory analysis revealed that of the 97 packages of narcotics recovered, fentanyl was present in 86. In addition to the 64 kilograms of pure fentanyl, 22 kilograms were composed of fentanyl mixed with heroin, the synthetic opioid tramadol and the tranquilizer ketamine.
This is the largest seizure of fentanyl to date in New York City. Given that a dose of fentanyl weighing two to three milligrams can be deadly, the 64 kilograms of pure fentanyl alone seized in this case could have yielded approximately 32 million lethal doses.
A criminal complaint filed in Manhattan Criminal Court charges ALVARADO-ROBLES and FLORES-SOLIS each with two counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree and two counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree.
55 Pounds of Fentanyl and Heroin Recovered from Vehicle in the Bronx
On September 5, 2017 at approximately 6 p.m., detectives and agents from the NYPD’s Queens Narcotics Major Case Squad and NJ-DEA stopped a vehicle at West 161st Street and Major Deegan Expressway not far from Yankee Stadium and recovered 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of narcotics. NYPD laboratory analysis results returned this past week revealed 24 kilograms contained a fentanyl/heroin mixture and one kilogram contained fentanyl alone.
In the hours leading up to the seizure, members of the Queens Narcotics Major Case Squad and NJ-DEA were conducting surveillance in Woodbridge, N.J., in the vicinity of a Home Depot located off US-9. At approximately 2:45 p.m., detectives observed a tractor trailer with California license plates pull into a rear parking lot of the Home Depot.
Two hours later defendants EDWIN GUZMAN and MANUEL RIVERA-SANTANA allegedly approached the rear lot, travelling on foot from the front of the store, and met with two men who had been observed inside the tractor-trailer. Together they walked to the far side of the truck. Shortly thereafter GUZMAN and RIVERA-SANTANA headed back towards the front of the store, with RIVERA-SANTANA carrying a large duffle bag. The bag appeared to be full and heavy. RIVERA-SANTANA placed the bag in a Toyota Sienna and climbed inside.
Detectives and agents followed the Toyota Sienna across the George Washington Bridge to the Major Deegan Expressway, and pulled the vehicle over after it had exited near West 161st Street. They observed the duffle bag in the back of the car with a luggage lock secured to the partially open zipper. After obtaining a court authorized Special Narcotics search warrant, detectives and agents opened the bag and recovered the 25 brick kilogram-size packages, each found to contain either pure fentanyl or a fentanyl/heroin mixture.
A criminal complaint filed in Manhattan Criminal Court charges EDWIN GUZMAN and MANUEL RIVERA-SANTANA each with one count of Conspiracy in the Second Degree, one count of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree and one count of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree.
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan thanked her office’s Special Investigations Bureau (SIB), Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) New Jersey Division and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) Queens Narcotics Major Case Squad.
“The sheer volume of fentanyl pouring into the city is shocking. It’s not only killing a record number of people in New York City, but the city is used as a hub of regional distribution for a lethal substance that is taking thousands of lives throughout the Northeast,” said Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan. “The success of these two investigations underscores the critical importance of collaboration. Each of the law enforcement partners made a significant contribution to the removal of 270 pounds of lethal narcotics from the black market.”
Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's New Jersey Division, said, “The seizure of this amount of narcotics, especially the fentanyl, undoubtedly saved countless lives. The combination of fentanyl with the other drugs is a deadly combination. We will continue to work with our law enforcement counterparts to keep our communities safe.”
“The NYPD has been successful in drug interdiction to date, but this seizure goes down in history as a milestone in the ongoing fight against fentanyl. This case demonstrates our Department’s deep commitment to protecting the public from drug cartels that seek to profit at the expense of our citizens," said Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said, “As the opioid epidemic continues to destroy communities in New York and beyond, it is more important than ever that law enforcement rise to the challenge of addressing it. I commend Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan’s work on this front, including today’s seizure of more than 120 kilograms of fentanyl, heroin, and other narcotics that might have otherwise led to countless deaths and overdoses in the five boroughs. These substances pollute, poison, and kill, and my Office remains firmly committed to working with our partners at the local and federal level to stem the tide of illegal drugs into our city.”
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said, “We are facing a new and increasingly deadly crisis in our communities. Heroin mixed with the synthetic drug fentanyl is a deadly cocktail. As a result, we’ve seen staggering numbers of fatal overdoses - far outpacing homicides in Queens. These two investigations that led to the seizure of these drugs will undoubtedly save lives and we will continue to work diligently with our law enforcement partners to combat this growing epidemic.”
Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said, “Fortunately this fentanyl shipment was seized before it could hit the streets and ravage lives and communities. The Bronx is a distribution point for drug traffickers and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to arrest and prosecute those who peddle death in our city.”
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
Timothy P. McMahon
DEA New Jersey Division