Reynaldo Almonte, 29, of George Street, was arraigned Dec. 14 in Manhattan Supreme Court in an indictment charging him with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and third degree.
Almonte was arrested after law enforcement tracked his vehicle from Queens to the Bronx on Nov. 28, after agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) New York Division were conducting surveillance near the intersection of Seneca Avenue and George Street. The agents noticed Almonte enter the driver’s seat of a burgundy Nissan carrying what appeared to be a weighted shopping bag. The car has a New Jersey license plate registered in Almonte’s name.
Agents and officers watched as Almonte reached into the rear of the Nissan and appeared to be moving objects around. They trailed Almonte as he drove to the West Farms section of the Bronx, where he double-parked on East 178th Street at 7:45 p.m.
The agents and officers approached the car, finding Almonte behind the wheel and a bag on the floor in the front passenger area. The bag later proved to contain more than $50,000 in cash.
Almonte and his vehicle were taken to the DEA’s Westchester office and a search of the Nissan later that evening revealed a hidden trap compartment in the rear passenger area. In the compartment were six kilogram-sized packages wrapped in plastic, along with $7,000 in cash. One of the packages bore a photo of President Joe Biden and labels in the other packages included a photo of a cat and the letters “AMG.”
Preliminary field testing indicated the packages contained cocaine. DEA estimates the street value of the cocaine to be around $300,000.
“Cocaine continues to be a significant factor in overdose deaths in New York City,” Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said. “Cocaine has always posed significant health risks, but it is now currently mixed with fentanyl, methamphetamine and other deadly substances, increasing risks to users. Taking 13 pounds of cocaine off of our streets will save precious lives.”
Almonte was released on $300,000 bail on Dec. 8 and his next court date is pending. He faces up to eight years in prison if convicted.
Meanwhile, DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino explained the significance of the labels on the packages and the amount of cocaine that was recovered in the search.
“Similar to business marketing, drug traffickers brand their deadly product in various ways using hot topic photos, logos or stamps referencing pop culture or current events,” Tarentino said. “These six kilograms would be repackaged into thousands of baggies sold in our New York City streets. DEA saves lives every single day with seizures like this which prevented traffickers from mixing and selling a deadly fentanyl and cocaine cocktail.”