Authorities arrested a former high school football star turned coach in Staten Island Thursday who allegedly sold heroin to undercover detectives.
Diego Oquendo, a 32-year-old Staten Island native, worked at Tottenville High School as an assistant football coach. Officers with the NYPD made the bust at roughly 8 p.m. Thursday after Oquendo allegedly sold heroin to one of their detectives at an intersection only three miles from the school, reports Staten Island Live.
Police took two other men into custody, 38-year-old Terry Kinnicutt and 22-year-old Danielle Messerschmidt, in connection with the incident. During a search of Kinnicutt’s home police found additional heroin and equipment for weighing and packaging the drug.
“This alleged behavior is extremely troubling and we’ve taken immediate steps to terminate Mr. Oquendo’s employment,” a spokesman for the New York City Department of Education said in a statement, according to Staten Island Live.
The arrest shocked some members of the community where Oquendo was once a star of the high school team. William Leykam, Oquendo’s lawyer, says his client is only connected to the money from the sale and not the actual drugs. Leykam said the prosecution is “going to have very strong problems with this case, end of story.”
“Diego’s always helping, this is so unusual for him,” Darnell Sojourner, Oquendo’s stepfather, told New York Daily News. “He was always a good kid, well mannered, polite, he’s never been in trouble.”
Law enforcement is making steady progress in its fight against narcotics trafficking in the region. Police busted a massive drug operation in February that distributed heroin cut with fentanyl in Staten Island, causing the overdose death of a pregnant woman. Amanda Dimarinis, one of those arrested in the bust, was a teacher at local middle school I.S. 49 and allegedly sold heroin laced with fentanyl on the property during her lunch breaks.
A joint investigation between the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, the New York City Police Department and the DEA over eight months culminated in a massive drug bust Jan. 31. Police arrested 32 people involved in an international heroin distribution ring, seizing more than 100 pounds of opioids worth roughly $22 million.
New York experienced a 135.7 percent increase in synthetic opioid and heroin deaths between 2014 and 2015, one of the largest increases for a state.
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