Million Dollar Bust In L.I.C., Wmbg.
Hundreds of marijuana plants believed to be worth millions of dollars on the street were found growing inside two warehouses in Long Island City and Williamsburg during raids conducted by federal agents and the NYPD last Tuesday, Apr. 2, that resulted in five arrests, it was reported.
Law enforcement sources said members of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Department of Homeland Security and the NYPD shut down the illegal weed warehouses at 11-40 44th Rd. in Long Island City and 118 Hope St. in Williamsburg last Tuesday afternoon.
While executing searches at both locations, authorities took into custody five individuals allegedly involved in the growth, processing and distribution of marijuana: Stephen Haberstroh, 50, of upstate Ardsley; Jacques Coupet, 42, of Queens; Ralph Bury, 25, of Brooklyn; Richard Lopez, 34, of Brooklyn and Samuel Lewis, 40, of upstate Pawling.
In all, a total of about 2,700 marijuana plants-along with related equipment used to grow the plants indoors- were confiscated from the two locations. A DEA spokesperson indicated the amount of seized weed has a combined street value of about $8 million.
According to federal agents, the bust was the result of a “Strike Force” investigation conducted by the DEA, the NYPD and Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) commenced after officers received information last month regarding marijuana growth at the Hope Street warehouse.
In the course of their investigation, as noted in the criminal complaint provided by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, agents obtained a license plate for a pickup truck used in the Williamsburg operation. Reportedly, the vehicle was linked to Haberstroh, and authorities learned it had been ticketed several times in the area of the 44th Road facility.
Federal agents then launched surveillance operations outside both locations, during which they detected a strong smell of marijuana emanating from the warehouses. At various times, Haberstroh, Lopez, Lewis and Bury were reportedly observed entering and exiting either of the facilties.
Authorities said the Long Island City location was raided by federal agents at about 2:30 p.m. last Tuesday, as they allegedly observed Lewis and Lopez attempting to leave the facility. Bury was also found inside the location.
Upon walking into the 44th Road warehouse, the agents reportedly found 988 marijuana plants, hydroponic growing equipment, four 32-gallon garbage cans of dried marijuana and 40 pounds of dry marijuana packed in bags.
Several house later, the criminal complaint noted, the Hope Street warehouse was raided by federal agents, during which Haberstroh and Coupet were taken into custody. Agents reportedly recovered 1,169 marijuana plants and related growing equipment.
Operations to remove the plants and dismantle the hydroponic equipment lasted well into the night at both warehouses, federal law enforcement agents stated.
Finally, authorities searched Haberstroh’s Ardsley home later last Tuesday afternoon and recovered $7,000 in cash as well as a loaded shotgun.
All five suspects were arraigned the following day, Wednesday, Apr. 3, in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on the charges of criminal possession of marijuana and conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
The investigation is ongoing.