NEW YORK (AP) — An investigation of a pair of New York City drug traffickers has resulted in a record seizure of more than 150 pounds of heroin from Mexico worth at least $50 million, authorities said Tuesday.
The Drug Enforcement Administration and Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan called the heroin seizure the largest ever recorded by the DEA in New York state. Agents also arrested Jose Mercedes and Yenci Cruz Francisco, both of the Bronx, and recovered $2 million in cash.
Authorities believe the ring had been receiving similar-size shipments each month from suppliers in Mexico. They say it was a main source of heroin for users in New York City, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
"To put it in perspective, this load was so large it carried the potential of supplying a dose of heroin to every man, woman and child in New York City," Brennan said in a statement. "While this important seizure stopped a huge amount of heroin from flooding our city, it also highlights the critical need to intercept heroin before it ever reaches our region."
According to a criminal complaint, investigators monitoring wiretaps learned the defendants were expecting a large drug shipment over the weekend. They followed the two suspects as they traveled in tandem in a Chevy Suburban and another vehicle to an industrial area of Montville, New Jersey, where tractor-trailers were parked, and then to a residential part of the Bronx, the complaint says.
After a drug-sniffing dog detected drugs inside the parked SUV, agents stopped Mercedes for questioning as he pulled up in a car that contained a smaller amount of heroin, authorities said. The suspect told agents there was a larger amount of drugs in the SUV and gave them instructions on how to open secret compartments inside the vehicle, they said.
A search of the Suburban resulted in the recovery of 70 kilograms — about 154 pounds — inside two compartments, authorities said. Another search at a nearby apartment turned up $2 million underneath a floor, they said.
Mercedes and Francisco were ordered held without bail. An attorney for the men, Patrick Brackley, said they were "looking forward to their day in court."