Approximately 140 pounds of the deadly synthetic drug responsible for the massive increase in overdoses around the country was recovered from a Kew Gardens home last month, prosecutors announced on Monday.
According to Bridget G. Brennan, the city’s special narcotics prosecutor, two people were arrested on Aug. 1 after New Jersey DEA agents and the Queens Narcotics Major Case Squad found several suitcases and a purse stuffed with the deadly drug.
Agents and detectives from both agencies followed Blanca Flores-Solis, 52, and Rogelio Alvarado-Robles, 55, as they drove a silver Mercedes Benz with Florida license plates to a Walmart in Manahawkin, N.J. In the parking lot, Alvarado-Robles took a shopping bag from an unidentified male and followed Flores-Solis inside the store.
Agents saw Alvarado-Robles place the shopping bag into a book bag that Flores-Solis was wearing. Soon after, the duo drove away and made several stops before traveling to their apartment at 85-15 120th St. in Kew Gardens.
Detectives secured and then executed a search warrant to enter the apartment at 9 p.m. on Aug. 1. During the search, they found four suitcases and a purse containing 97 kilogram-sized packages filled with drugs. A total of 213 pounds of drugs were recovered and an NYPD laboratory analysis found that of 97 packages found, 86 contained fentanyl.
In addition to 64 kilograms of pure fentanyl, 22 kilograms contained fentanyl mixed with heroin, the synthetic opioid tramadol and the tranquilizer ketamine.
According to Brennan, this is the largest seizure of fentanyl to date in the city. Fentanyl is extremely deadly; a two- or three-milligram dose can be lethal, and the 64 kilograms seized could have lead to approximately 32 million deadly doses.
Alvarado-Robles and Flores-Solis were each charged with two counts of first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
“The sheer volume of fentanyl pouring into the city is shocking,” Brennan said. “It’s not only killing a record number of people in New York City, but the city is used as a hub of regional distribution for a lethal substance that is taking thousands of lives throughout the Northeast.”
According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, fentanyl is responsible for the large spike in fatal overdoses in the city. In 2016, 1,374 people died from opioid overdoses – 46 percent more than in 2015.
Another investigation on Sept. 5 led detectives to seize 55 pounds of narcotics from a car in the Bronx. An analysis found that 54 pounds contained a fentanyl and heroin mixture and the remaining pound was pure fentanyl.
The fentanyl, heroin and cocaine seized from both locations have a street value of more than $30 million.
Bronx residents Edwin Guzman, 35, and Manuel Rivera-Santana, 32, were charged with one count of second-degree conspiracy, one count of first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and one count of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
“We are facing a new and increasingly deadly crisis in our communities,” said Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “Heroin mixed with the synthetic drug fentanyl is a deadly cocktail. As a result, we’ve seen staggering numbers of fatal overdoses – far outpacing homicides in Queens. These two investigations that led to the seizure of these drugs will undoubtedly save lives and we will continue to work diligently with our law enforcement partners to combat this growing epidemic.”