A Flushing teenager was indicted by a Queens grand jury for selling deadly narcotics and a loaded firearm, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.
Justin Echeverry, 19, of College Point Boulevard, was arraigned Wednesday, Sept. 7, before Queens Supreme Court Justice Toni M. Cimino on a 15-count indictment charging him with 10 counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance, two counts of criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of pistol ammunition. Echeverry is accused of operating as a drug dealer and supplying a large number of narcotics as well as a loaded firearm to an undercover officer between January 2022 and June 2022.
A subsequent court-authorized search of his home resulted in the recovery of four illegal firearms, including an assault weapon.
Utilizing surveillance and undercover buys, the district attorney’s Major Economic Crimes Bureau along with the NYPD’s Queens Violent Crime Squad conducted a lengthy investigation leading to Echeverry’s arrest, as well as the seizure of illegal firearms at his College Point Boulevard home on Aug. 31.
Katz said the investigation began by looking into Echeverry’s activities as an alleged drug supplier with transactions taking place in Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and downtown Flushing. An undercover detective posing as a “buyer” initially met with Echeverry on Jan. 11, at which time the defendant allegedly sold five Percocet pills to the “buyer.”
According to the charges, a total of 11 transactions took place between Jan. 11 and June 6, during which Echeverry allegedly sold 99 Percocet pills and 1,010 Oxycodone pills in cash transactions. During the 11th and final purchase, the defendant allegedly sold a loaded .22-caliber Smith and Wesson firearm to the undercover detective.
Upon laboratory testing of the seized narcotics, law enforcement officials discovered that each pill contained fentanyl. Katz said year-to-date numbers for 2022 indicate 206 suspected fatal overdose cases across Queens, an estimated 51% increase from the same time last year. An overwhelming majority of the deaths, approximately 77% have been attributed to fentanyl.
“As alleged, this defendant flooded our streets with deadly fentanyl by selling the pills as prescription narcotics, at a time when Queens County continues to struggle with an alarming increase of fatal overdoses,” Katz said. “The defendant also stands accused of possessing an arsenal of illegal guns, having sold one loaded firearm to a buyer without proper permits of security requirements.
The arsenal of weapons seized at Echeverry’s Flushing home included two 9 mm semi-automatic ghost guns, a .22-caliber revolver, a PA-15 assault weapon, $12,260 in cash and an array of ammunition, according to the district attorney.
“My office will not stand for those who sell poison and weapons of death in our communities,” Katz said. “Following an investigation conducted by my Major Economic Crimes Bureau and the New York City Police Department, the defendant is now in custody and will be held to account for his criminal actions.”
Justice Cimino ordered the defendant to return to court on Oct. 12. If convicted, Echeverry faces up to 20 years in prison.
“The NYPD will never relent in its public-safety mission of eradicating illegal guns and opioids laced with deadly fentanyl, all of which have cut a destructive path across New York City and our entire country,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said. “This intelligence-driven investigation carried out with our partners in the Queens district attorney’s office, reflects our unwavering vigilance in protecting the people we serve, no matter the threat, and I commend everyone who took part in building the successful prosecution being announced today.”