Twenty alleged members of a drug trafficking organization, centralized in Woodhaven, have been indicted for conspiracy to distribute heroin.
The ring, called the Perez Organization, FBI officials believe, operated out of a location on 87th Avenue and 78th Street and oversaw distribution networks existing in Nassau and Suffolk counties, as well as a storage facility in Brooklyn, according to the indictment and a detention letter filed by the government.
“The charges and arrests announced today [Tuesday, March 13] have ended the activities of an alleged heroin distribution organization whose members were drawn from a variety of backgrounds but were united by common cause — profiting personally while seriously endangering the lives of so many residents in our communities,” said Loretta Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
According to the FBI, members of the Perez Organization were responsible for dispensing over 20 kilograms of heroin, possessing a street value of around $2.75 million, to drug dealers in Queens and Long Island over the past nine months.
The arrests and indictments of these individuals were the end result of a nine-month-long investigation, called “Operation County Connection,” run by the FBI and Nassau County Police Department (NCPD), along with assistance from the Suffolk County Police Department, the New York City Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service, Eastern District of New York.
Over the course of the investigation, sparked by an increase in heroin use on Long Island, law enforcement officials used wiretaps to document the dealings of the defendants. According to the FBI, more than 5,400 individual doses of heroin, set for distribution, were recovered from affiliates of the Perez Organization. Over $30,000 worth of heroin was recovered by agents throughout four storage facilities in Queens, Brooklyn and Roosevelt, New York.
Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, applauded the efforts of law enforcement officials responsible for bringing down the organization.
“Well done to the FBI and the NYPD for nabbing these guys,” said Wendell. “Heroin is one of the most destructive drugs out there. It’s pretty low to be peddling heroin. You’re a leech on society.”
While Wendell was not especially troubled by the discovery of a drug ring in his neighborhood, he was stunned to see locals involved in such a scenario.
“It’s not the kind of thing you’d expect from someone in this community,” said Wendell. “You don’t look at your neighbors and think they could be someone who’s part of a drug gang.”
The alleged defendants are Jose Perez, 26; Norberto Rodriguez, 27; Wilfred Castillo, 26; Jose Taveras, 38; Rafael Pichardo, 30; William Baez, 30; Edwin Adames, 33; Leonardo Lopez, 25; Sean Brunette, 22; Anderson Taveras, 22; Kenneth Suarez, 33; Eric Suarez, 28; Dana Sollecito, 23; Tina Catrini, 29; Matthew Catrini, 24; Josephine Javis, 50; Roland Stern, 68; Corey Stern, 37; Kathryn Pappas, 21; and Felix Vargas, 33.
If convicted, each of the defendants potentially faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.