Police arrested 32 people involved in an international heroin distribution ring, seizing more than 100 pounds of opioids worth roughly $22 million.
A joint investigation between the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, the New York City Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Agency over eight months culminated in the massive bust. Authorities began arresting those involved Tuesday and officials from the DA’s office announced the seizure Friday.
The defendants face a 72 count indictment and potential life sentences in prison. Police confiscated 103 pounds of heroin and fentanyl, a painkiller behind many overdose deaths known to be 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, reports NBC New York.
Officials say the heroin and fentanyl originated in Honduras, where it was then transported through Mexico into California. Traffickers then loaded the drugs onto tractor trailers containing standard cargo and drove the narcotics across the U.S. to New York City for distribution. Jose Alvarez, 37, Viannet Espinal, 39, and Joel Velazquez, 27, are the alleged architects of the international scheme.
Police picked up Alvarez on security cameras selling someone the drugs out of a family business on Fordham Road. They also found $32,420 in cash at a residence of Alvarez’s in Fort Lee, N.J. The DA’s office is suing the defendants for $10.5 million, the estimated haul off the drugs during the months long investigation.
The seizure comes after police busted another drug operation Tuesday in New York that distributed heroin cut with fentanyl on school property and caused the overdose death of a pregnant woman. The distribution ring moved heroin and fentanyl between New Jersey and Staten Island, where the dealers pushed the product in neighborhoods and on the property of a middle school, where a teacher used her lunch breaks to push the drugs.
Police arrested five individuals in connection with the operation Tuesday, including the fiancé of a 25-year-old pregnant woman who suffered a fatal overdose in March. That overdose sparked the 11-month investigation. Two men and three woman all under the age of 30 are facing felony drug charges for distributing the narcotics.
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