James J. Hunt, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) New York Division, Bridget G. Brennan, New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, George P. Beach II, Superintendent of the New York State Police, and New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill announced the seizure of 55 kilograms of cocaine (121 lbs.) from a fictitious jewelry business operating in the Diamond District of New York City.
Members of the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force (NYDETF) Group T-42 initiated a joint investigation with the DEA Los Angeles Field Division that identified two fictitious jewelry businesses: Sapphire, a company based in Los Angeles, and 21 Divine, operating out of 43 West 47th Street, suites 407 and 503, in Manhattan.
Group T-42 suspected a cocaine distribution organization was using the addresses as a front for receiving illegal drugs which would ultimately be distributed throughout New York City and the Tri-State area.
At approximately 2:30 p.m. on March 30, 2017, agents and investigators conducted surveillance at 43 West 47th Street and observed deliverymen carry packages inside orange bags into suite 503 and then depart.
A man, later identified as Junior Lopez-Pena, was arrested as he attempted to exit the location after the package delivery.
Lopez-Pena was in possession of keys to suite 503.
On March 29, 2017, members of Group T-42 identified three suspicious packages en route from Sapphire in Los Angeles to 21 Divine in Manhattan.
The Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor obtained a court authorized search warrant for the three packages and for 43 West 47th Street, suites 407 and 503.
Members of Group T-42 conducted a court authorized search of the packages and both suites associated with 21 Divine.
Agents seized 54 kilograms of cocaine from the three packages inside of suite 503 as well as an additional kilogram of cocaine from suite 407. A money counter was also recovered from suite 503.
Lopez-Pena, 26, of Haverstraw, N.Y., faces charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and third degrees, and is expected to be arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court later today.
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan thanked her office’s Special Investigations Bureau, the DEA’s Los Angeles Field Division and the DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, including members of the New York City Police Department and the New York State Police, for their work on the case.
“This load of cocaine seized in the Diamond District sets off alarms here in New York that Mexican drug trafficking organizations have increased efforts to funnel cocaine to New Yorkers,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt.
“Over the past two years, Colombian cocaine cultivation has dramatically increased, reaching record levels of production. New York drug law enforcement is on the forefront in shutting down traffickers’ efforts by seizing their loads and making arrests.”
“This brazen trafficking scheme involved the delivery of 55 kilograms of cocaine to a bustling commercial center in Midtown Manhattan during broad daylight,” by Bridget G. Brennan.
“By disrupting the supply chain and seizing $2 million in narcotics we undoubtedly saved lives.”
“Cocaine has been identified as one of the drugs responsible for the spike in recent overdose deaths in New York City. I commend the excellent investigative work of our law enforcement partners.”
New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, “Great police work has taken down another dangerous drug operation. This organization utilized fictitious businesses to ship large quantities of narcotics across the country – headed to New York City and our streets.”
“I commend the hard work of the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, including the New York State Police members who worked this case, resulting in a large seizure of drugs and an important arrest.”
“The State Police remain committed to partnering with other members of law enforcement to eliminate these types of operations and shutting down the distribution of illegal drugs.”
“Despite deliberate efforts to conceal a coast-to-coast drug operation through a phony business front, these alleged drug dealers were taken down through the relentless investigative efforts of NYPD detectives and our federal partners in the joint Drug Enforcement Task Force,” said Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill.
“I commend them for their work, and for ensuring this large seizure of narcotics did not wind up on the streets of New York City.”
The charges and allegations are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.