Nearly a dozen men were busted for running a large-scale fentanyl and heroin mill in the Bronx, where “hundreds of thousands of potentially lethal drugs” worth about $4 million were found packaged for distribution, officials said.
Federal, state and local authorities launched the takedown last week, ultimately removing 400,000 packages of suspected fentanyl and heroin, plus quantities of loose powdered narcotics, from an apartment on the Grand Concourse near East 168th Street in the South Bronx.
Four of the 11 suspects were nabbed hiding under solar panels on the roof of the drug den, the US Drug Enforcement Administration said.
“Eleven members of a fentanyl/heroin trafficking ring were arrested as they fled the scene of a crime,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino said in a statement.
“They all ran from an active fentanyl mill filled with hundreds of thousands of deadly doses, but they couldn’t hide, not even under solar panels on the roof.”
Investigators showed up at the apartment Wednesday after surveilling it for about a month and noticing multiple people coming and going with bags, a glass top table, chairs and other equipment, the DEA said.
Agents and officers first spotted Aremedis Rivera, 41, entering the building around 11 a.m., followed by Juan Rivera, 44, a few hours later, officials said.
Aremedis left the building around 5 p.m. and hopped into a livery car — which took him about seven blocks before he got out near Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, officials said.
Authorities stopped him and seized the bags he’d been carrying.
A court-authorized search later revealed that the two bags held about 100,000 glassine envelopes containing fentanyl and heroin, packaged into brick-shaped squares and wrapped in magazine paper, according to the feds.
Within an hour, investigators also spotted Heriberto Rivera, 43, walking out of the same building, followed by Luis Ledesma, 38, authorities said.
An agitated tenant also came out of the building yelling about men trying to enter his apartment.
Investigators ran into the building and arrested another suspect, John Reyes, 36, in the lobby, authorities said.
They then raided the apartment in question — and subsequently busted Oscar Taveras, 32, Juan Rivera, 44, and Miguel Delacruz, 29, on the roof, officials said.
Ivan Carlos-Serrano, 23, Juan Albert Serrano, 26, Kelvin Ledesma, 26, and Richard Manuel-Rivera, 28, tried to evade capture by hiding together under solar panels on the roof — but they too were soon captured, officials said.
Authorities said they had gathered enough evidence, including building security video, to connect all 11 men to the drug mill.
Meanwhile, inside the living room, agents and officers recovered hundreds of thousands of glassine envelopes containing fentanyl from bags on the couch and the floor, and from the glass-top table and a second table, officials said.
Loose powdered fentanyl was also scattered around the room, according to the authorities.
Investigators also found various pieces of equipment needed for drug packaging — including bags of cutting agents, a box filled with coffee grinders containing a white powdery substance, multiple scales and stamps used for branding.
Thousands of empty glassine envelopes were found in the apartment — including in the oven, officials said.
Traffickers often speed up the process of filling the envelopes by warming them in an oven first, officials said.
The suspects were charged in an indictment — filed by the NYC Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office — with multiple counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and third degrees, as well as criminally using drug paraphernalia in the second degree, officials said.
“This investigation highlights potential dangers from a fentanyl/heroin packaging mill operating in a residential building,” Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said in a statement.
“Not only is exposure to lethal drugs a risk to innocent residents when a half million small packages of lethal drugs are bagged in a neighboring apartment, but their security may be compromised as well,” Brennan said. “Across the city, New Yorkers are suffering the loss of precious lives to deadly drugs and are fed up with every aspect of fentanyl trafficking.”
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