Bridget G. Brennan, New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, announced the sentencing of Jose Mercedes, Sr., (aka “Hippie”), to 14 years in state prison followed by five years post release supervision for possessing 70 kilograms of heroin (over 150 pounds) in connection with a narcotics trafficking operation.
Mercedes was arrested in 2015 by members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA), New York Drug Enforcement Task Force and pleaded guilty to one count of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree on September 14, 2017, one day before his trial was scheduled to begin in Manhattan Supreme Court.
As detailed in court documents, Mercedes governed an expansive network of heroin distribution from Mexico to the New York City area.
At the time of the defendant’s arrest on May 17, 2015, members of the U.S. DEA New York Drug Enforcement Task Force (NYDETF) Group T-31 recovered 70 kilograms of heroin from a concealed trap compartment in the floor of a Chevrolet Suburban parked in a gated lot behind a residential building at 210 West 251st Street.
Following the execution of a search warrant at 210 West 251st St., Apt. 5E, an apartment used by the defendant to store and prepare heroin for distribution, investigators recovered over $2 million in cash hidden underneath the floorboards.
This represented the largest single cache of heroin ever seized in New York City by the DEA, with an estimated street value of $50 million.
At a time when overdose deaths rates were skyrocketing, this shipment could have yielded over eight million doses of heroin or the equivalent of one dose for each adult and child living in New York City.
(Learn More. Chemists working for the Drug Enforcement Administration are discovering new, deadlier varieties of opioids concocted overseas and sold on US streets. Courtesy of STAT and YouTube. Posted on Jan 31, 2017)
As stated in court today, this seizure was the tip of an iceberg.
Mercedes was responsible for distributing hundreds of kilograms of heroin in the New York City area and throughout the Northeast.
The multi-million dollar narcotics trafficking organization enabled Mercedes to live a lavish lifestyle and to employ multiple generations of the Mercedes family, including the defendant’s son, brother, nieces and nephews.
The investigation revealed that Mercedes controlled members of his family in almost every respect, requiring them to potentially sacrifice their lives to live with Mexican cartels well known for violence, transport narcotics across state lines, package narcotics for resale and insulate the organization from law enforcement by registering vehicles and apartments in dummy names.
“Jose Mercedes, Sr. will spend 14 years in New York State prison as just punishment for the death and devastation he and his drug organization inflicted on our city,” Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said,
“No prison sentence could possibly compensate the thousands from every community who have lost loved ones to heroin addiction, but I hope this lengthy sentence and our successful investigation will serve as a warning to traffickers who try to use our city as their headquarters.”
“Our dedicated attorneys and investigators will track you, destroy your drugs and seize your profits, and your punishment will be severe.”
The prosecution was overseen by Assistant District Attorneys Kristin Bailey and Justin Ashenfelter, with supervision by Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa Tompkins of the Special Investigations Bureau and Counsel to the Special Narcotics Prosecutor Peter M. Kougasian, and with assistance from Assistant District Attorney Karolina Klyuchnikova.
Bridget G. Brennan commended the DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force Group T-31, which is comprised of DEA agents, New York City Police Department (NYPD) detectives and New York State Police investigators for their work on the investigation.
Assisting in the investigation were the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York, the El Dorado Task Force, the Yonkers Police Department and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.