Photo courtesy of the Queens DA's office
Seized during long-term investigation 1 kilo brick of fentanyl labeled “good quality” in Arabic, a plastic bag filled with a cutting agent and 10 cylinder-shaped packages of carfentanil, a substance 100 times deadlier than fentanyl.

Eleven people, including five from Queens, were busted for their alleged roles in a drug-trafficking operation that distributed fentanyl, heroin, and a variety of drugs, prosecutors announced Thursday.

Following a long-term investigation, the men were charged on various counts of drug trafficking, conspiracy, criminal possession of a controlled substance and other crimes. Click here to a full addendum of defendants and their charges.

According to the Queens District Attorney’s office, the bust marked the country’s largest seizure of carfentanil, a substance that is said to be 100 times more deadly than fentanyl.

“The main defendant in this case operated a complicated illegal network of dealers and traffickers, who pumped deadly drugs which continue to contribute to the opioid epidemic in our communities,” said acting District Attorney John M. Ryan. “Although it is commonly known that this epidemic is fueled by the rise in fentanyl trafficking, the main defendant and his associates are also charged with trafficking carfentanil, another synthetic opioid – 100 times more potent than fentanyl. The seizure of 11 pounds of carfentanil from these defendants represents the largest seizure of its kind and has certainly resulted in saving lives.”

According to charges, the investigation began when law enforcement agents were looking into the alleged drug dealing and gun trafficking activities of defendant Julian Tovar, 31, of Woodside. On May 3, 2018, a court-authorized search of Tovar’s apartment allegedly uncovered 5 handguns, large capacity ammunition-feeding magazines, more than 2 pounds of cocaine and over $11,000 in cash. A search of Tovar’s Jeep also allegedly found an AK-47 assault weapon hidden in a secret compartment within the vehicle.

Tovar allegedly worked with defendant Giovanny Arias, 49, of White Plains, New York, to traffic drugs. Charges say that between July 2018 and September 2019, Arias allegedly worked with his co-defendants to operate a nationwide drug enterprise utilizing long-haul truck drivers – defendants Mauricio Arevalo, 50, of Naples, Florida, and Alexis Victorero, of Milford, Massachusetts – who allegedly transported drugs from the southern border of California to New York City, including Queens County. The tractor trailers allegedly hauled heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and carfentanil.

On July 21, 2018, Arias allegedly directed defendant John Pareja, 38, of Stamford Connecticut, to make a pick up on July 22 from a truck stop in New Jersey. Law enforcement agents followed Pareja from that truck depot and stopped on the Van Wyck Expressway service road at Jewel Avenue later that day, and later executed a court-authorized search warrant for the vehicle Pareja was driving.

During the search, police allegedly recovered 37 pounds of fentanyl, along with just over 2 pounds of Ketamine that was concealed in a hidden compartment in the floor under the front passenger seat. On Oct. 29, 2018, Arias is alleged to have directed co-defendant Victor Salazar, 59, of Whites Plains, to pick up 35 pounds of cocaine and more than 4 pounds of heroin from another rest stop in New Jersey. Salazar was stopped by police afterwards in Astoria and allegedly had the drugs hidden in a mini-bar refrigerator box in the back seat of the car.

According to the indictment, on April 17, 2019, Arevalo went to a movie theater parking lot in Linden, New Jersey and delivered a black duffle bag from the cab of his truck to co-defendant Esther Riano-Lopez, 47, of Jamaica. Riano-Lopez brought the bag back to a stash-house in Springfield Gardens, where Arias’s associates – defendants Carlos Hidalgo, 38, of Jamaica, and Armando de Jesus Moreno-Perez, 55, of East Elmhurst – were allegedly waiting to receive the drugs. Arias also allegedly told another co-defendant, 46-year-old Hector Maren of White Plains, to meet them there to cut and repackage the drugs.

The next day, members of the NYPD’s Major Case Squad executed a search warrant for the stash-house and allegedly found the black duffle bag along with 10 cylindrically-shaped packages containing a total of 11 pounds of a combination of carfentanil and fentanyl. The search also allegedly uncovered a one kilogram brick (about 2 pounds) of fentanyl, which was stamped with the logo of the UAE, Abu Dhabi Police Department and the words “good quality” in Arabic. A digital scale, plastic heat sealer and over a pound of a cutting agent were also allegedly found.

Finally, on Sept. 25, 2019, Arias allegedly told Victorero to deliver a drug shipment from California to the New York area. Victorero’s truck was stopped by police just before hitting the Tappan Zee/Mario Cuomo Bridge, in Nyack, New York. A police K-9 searched the truck and allegedly recovered over 28 pounds of cocaine, more than 2 pounds of a mixture of fentanyl and tramadol, over 2 pounds of heroin and over 1,500 counterfeit oxycodon pills containing fentanyl. Victorero is being prosecuting by the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office.

Over the course of the long-term investigation, law enforcement allegedly recovered 6 firearms, 68 pounds of cocaine, 50 pounds of fentanyl, 11 pounds of carfentanil, 8 pounds of heroin, in addition to various quantities of Ketamine and Tramadol.

“These arrests and the significant seizure of narcotics exemplify the NYPD’s commitment, with its law enforcement partners, to stopping drug traffickers from disrupting our communities,” said NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill. “I want to commend the NYPD investigators and the Queens and Rockland county district attorney’s offices for their work in this important case. Together, we continue to work relentlessly to rid our city of illegal drugs and to bring those who would seek to profit from their proliferation to justice.”

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