NEW AYORK – The US Special Narcotics Attorney’s Office indicted five people in a sophisticated conspiracy to smuggle millions of dollars in cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York and Massachusetts through the United States Postal Service.
The intercepted packages contained a total of 30 kilograms of cocaine (more than 66 pounds) hidden inside the children’s lunch boxes and school folders, according to the report.
Bridget G. Brennan, New York City Special Narcotics Attorney, Ray Donovan, Special Agent in Charge, US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea, along with others, announced the arrests Wednesday along with the 25-count indictment.
According to police officers, the driver had green leafy plant material in his pants that looked like marijuana and a strong drug smell emanated from the vehicle. The driver of the vehicle and the passenger were detained without incident.
Appearances for three of the five defendants are scheduled for the afternoon at the Manhattan Supreme Court, presided over by Justice Abraham Clott.
The extensive investigation was conducted by the DEA’s New York Anti-Drug Task Force, the T-41 Group, and the USPIS. NYDETF Group T-41 is comprised of agents and officers from the DEA, NYPD, and the New York State Police.
“Cocaine remains an illegal drug anchored in New York,” said Special Agent Donovan. “This drug conspiracy is representative of how a trafficking organization capitalized during Covid by using mail services to transport illegal drugs to New York.”
In carrying out the accused conspiracy, which ran between May 2020 and July 2021, the accused ringleaders Carlos Duarte, alias “Showtime”, and Alexis García, alias “Ale G.”, allegedly sent numerous packages containing cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York and Massachusetts. The investigation revealed that the two work as managers representing record artists in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. They are both residents of New York. Frequent travel in connection with this job allegedly served as a cover for narcotics-related activity.
During a raid on Wednesday morning, agents, officers and inspectors arrested Duarte at his home at 237 Hoover Avenue, Yonkers, NY and recovered approximately 400 grams of a powdered white substance, some of which tested positive for cocaine in a field test, and multiple cell phones of residence on a court-authorized record. Garcia was arrested in front of a recording studio located at 281 S. Broadway in Yonkers. He had approximately $ 12,000 in his possession. A court authorized a search of his home at 1500 Noble Avenue, Apt. 17A in the Bronx where another $ 32,000 in cash, several records and a Rolex watch were found. Rual Sweeney was arrested Tuesday night in the Bronx.
Harlem residents and business owners protested Friday against the setting up of new clinics to treat drug addicts. Carolina Ardila with the latest details.
Duarte faces the main narcotics charge for operating as a large trafficker. Other charges contained in the indictment include conspiracy in the second degree, criminal sale of a controlled substance in the first degree, and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and third degree. Wesley Coddington, aka “Lucky”, and Bryan Centeno-Rosado were arrested during the investigation and charged with criminal charges. They are scheduled to be indicted on November 17, 2021.
While the charges in the indictment relate to USPS packages containing approximately 15 kilograms of cocaine, the investigation resulted in the seizure of approximately twice that amount, totaling 30 kilograms.
Agents, officers, and inspectors employed a wide range of investigative tools, including latent fingerprint collection from USPS packages, physical and electronic surveillance, court-authorized records, and various other investigative tools.
During the investigation, US postal inspectors identified various hallmarks on packages shipped by the organization and discovered a more extensive pattern involving 100 similar packages shipped since May 2020. The packages were shipped to residential addresses in New York State. , including in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and Greene County, as well as Massachusetts. Often times, the named recipients were fictitious or were real people not associated with the address. Frequently, the return addresses were in New York, even though the packages originated in Puerto Rico. At least two packages had the return address of a luxury clothing boutique in Upper Manhattan.
Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, alias “Otoniel” was the most wanted drug trafficker in Colombia and was compared to Pablo Escobar.
Between May 2020 and April 2021, the fingerprint analysis allegedly linked the defendants to six packages. Duarte’s fingerprints were allegedly found on two packages, Garcia in four, and Centeno-Rosado in one of the packages associated with Garcia. These USPS packages contained a total of eight kilograms of cocaine hidden inside the children’s lunch boxes and a zippered folder. The lunch boxes had images of popular cartoon characters.
On January 21, 2021, surveillance footage in Puerto Rico showed Duarte sending a USPS package bound for 2925 Colden Avenue in the Williamsbridge neighborhood of the Bronx, which is Sweeney’s residence. NYDETF members noted that the package was delivered to the Colden Avenue address on January 22, 2021. Sweeney allegedly left the residence with a gray shopping bag, discarded what appeared to be a white USPS box, and delivered the bag. to Coddington. Members of the NYDETF and USPIS observed Coddington enter a vehicle and shift in the back seat. At 2:25 p.m., agents and officers stopped the vehicle in the vicinity of Astor Avenue and Boston Road and recovered approximately two kilograms of cocaine hidden in the children’s lunch boxes inside a hidden trap compartment in the rear seat area. Coddington also had a small amount of fentanyl on his person. He was arrested and charged in a criminal complaint.
On April 14, 2021, agents and officers conducted a court-authorized search of Coddington’s residence at 21-27 149th Street in Flushing, Queens. The search turned up more than 18 pink zip-lock bags containing cocaine, as well as $ 4,000 in cash, a Rolex watch, luxury tennis shoes, a luxury backpack and wallet, a kilo press (equipment used to pack narcotics), three digital scales and cell phones.
According to the investigation of the Prosecutor’s Office, the shipment was destined for Israel, after passing through Buenos Aires and Antwerp, Belgium.
Two weeks later, on April 28, 2021, agents and officers observed that Duarte received a package from USPS and was driving in a white van. The next day, April 29, 2021, members of the NYDETF and USPIS tracked a package bound for 1871 Barnes Avenue in the Bronx. During the surveillance, they observed a vehicle similar to Duarte’s white truck near the scene. At approximately 4:40 p.m., agents and officers observed Centeno-Rosado leave the scene with a heavy duffel bag and get into a liveried car. Members of Group T-41 followed the car and stopped it in Yonkers, New York. Agents and officers recovered four kilograms of cocaine divided between two lunch boxes, one gray and one red. The driver in the livery showed that the car’s destination was 237 Hoover Road in Yonkers, Duarte’s residence. Cell phone communications between Duarte and Centeno-Rosado indicate that Duarte ordered the car in livery. Centeno-Rosado was arrested and charged in a criminal complaint.
On June 3, 2021, members of the NYDETF stopped a car in which Garcia was an occupant. A court-authorized search turned up approximately $ 1,000 from the trunk of the vehicle, as well as two cell phones. A court-authorized search of cell phones showed Garcia and one other person allegedly involved in a narcotics-related conversation, with Garcia submitting a receipt from USPS and the other person submitting a photo of a kilogram of cocaine. There were also discussions related to price and weight.
Later that month, Duarte traveled to the US-Mexico border in Texas and New Mexico. On June 21, 2021, he allegedly sent a USPS box with his own name as the recipient and sender, according to the DEA’s detailed report.
“Hiding drugs in children’s lunch boxes was the modus operandi of this organization. If this tactic was designed to get rid of law enforcement, it didn’t work. I commend the excellent investigation done with our partners to take it out of service, ”said Special Narcotics Attorney Bridget G. Brennan.