Law enforcement agents seized a record amount of fentanyl, nearly 195 pounds, and 75 pounds of heroin and cocaine in a pair of drug busts prosecutors say included 32 million lethal doses of the opioids, with a combined street value of $30 million.
Four people were arrested after the August and September busts. Now, Bridget G. Brennan, New York City’s special narcotics prosecutor, said the busts are important to the community, considering overdose deaths reached an all-time high in New York’s five boroughs in 2016.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly 20,000 of the 64,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl in 2016.
Fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroin, is flooding the city of New York, according to Brennen. “The sheer volume of fentanyl pouring into the city is shocking,” she said. “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.”
The potent opiate led to 1,374 deaths in 2016 – a 46 percent hike from the prior year, according to the New York Post.
Authorities were able to witness Rogelio Alvardo-Robles and Blanca Flores-Solis receive a suspicious package, which they assumed was cocaine, from an unknown trafficker at a Walmart in Manahawkin, New Jersey, on August 1. They tracked the package back to an apartment building in Queens’ Kew Gardens neighborhood, where a DEA agent approached them and seized the item.
Police and federal agents found more than 140 pounds of fentanyl, the most in the city’s history.
After that initial bust, authorities said they got a search warrant for the apartment. In the apartment, they found 97 packages of drugs with enough doses to kill 32 million people from overdoses. Of the 97 packages, 84 were either filled with pure fentanyl or heroin laced fentanyl.
Another 53-pounds of fentanyl-laced heroin and another 2 pounds of uncut fentanyl was seized on Sept. 5. Detectives and DEA agents witnessed Edwin Guzman and Manuel Rivera-Santana pick up a duffel bag from men inside a tractor-trailer. The two men then drove back into New York City.
Near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, agents stopped the vehicle, obtained a search warrant, and opened the locked duffel to find 25 1-kilogram bricks with the drugs.
The four people arrested over the course of the two operations each face criminal drug possession charges; Guzman and Rivera-Santana also face conspiracy counts.
Attorney information for the men wasn’t immediately available.
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