Federal agents seize 154 pounds of heroin in Riverdale

Cruz Francisco was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court and held without bail on the evening of Tuesday, May 19.
Photo courtesy of the Drug Enforcement Agency

A major drug bust in the Bronx was announced Tuesday, with a street value of $50 million.

James Hunt, special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s NY Division; Bridget Brennan, NYC’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor; Raymond Parmer, Jr., special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; Police Commissioner William Bratton and NYS Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico, announced the arrest of four members of a narcotics trafficking network and the seizure of 154 pounds of heroin, plus $2 million in cash and a firearm.

The massive load of narcotics and cash was recovered from a vehicle and an apartment in the Fieldston part of Riverdale, near Horace Mann School and next to Van Cortlandt Park.

This is the the fourth largest heroin seizure in the U.S. It was the result of a yearlong investigation by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor and the DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, which is comprised of DEA Special Agents, NYPD detectives and state police investigators, and the Homeland Security-led El Dorado Task Force. The Yonkers Police Department and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey also assisted.

On Sunday, May 17, agents arrested the head of the multi-million dollar heroin organization, Jose Mercedes and a second defendant, Yenci Cruz Francisco.

Both Mercedes and Cruz Francisco are charged with operating as a major trafficker and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree. Two additional defendants were arrested in November.

A court authorized wiretap investigation revealed that Mercedes and his drug trafficking group received sizable shipments of heroin at least once a month from suppliers in Culican, Mexico, an area controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel.

The organization is believed to have served as a main source of heroin for customers throughout the Bronx, the five boroughs, as well as Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

In the days leading up to the seizure and arrests, intercepted phone conversations suggested the organization was expecting delivery of a large load of heroin over the weekend.

Agents set up surveillance outside 210 W. 251st Street in Fieldston, where the organization was suspected of maintaining a stash location in apartment 5E.

Late Saturday, May 16 agents tracked a Chevrolet Suburban and a Honda Accord driven by Mercedes, Cruz Francisco and a third individual as they travelled from West 251st Street to an industrial parking lot off of I- 287 in Montville, N.J.

Photo courtesy of the Drug Enforcement Agency

The vehicles entered a section of the industrial lot where tractor-trailers were parked. After more than an hour, the two vehicles headed back to Riverdale.

Upon reaching 210 W. 251st Street, the Suburban was parked in a gated parking lot behind the building.

The Yonkers Police Department dispatched a K-9 Unit and obtained a positive hit for narcotics on the Chevrolet Suburban. Agents maintained surveillance at the location.

On Sunday, May 17, agents observed Mercedes arrive and stopped him for questioning.

Several large bags containing a tan powdery substance were recovered from the front seat of the car and from a hidden compartment in the center console. At least one of the bags tested positive for heroin.

Subsequently, agents stopped Francisco Cruz and obtained a court-authorized search warrant for the vehicle he was entering.

A hidden compartment under the floor of the vehicle contained 70 rectangular-shaped kilogram packages of heroin labeled with the identifying name of ‘Rolex.’ Also inside the vehicle was $24,000 cash.

Agents conducted a series of court-authorized searches at apartments associated with the group.

Inside 210 W. 251st Street apartment 5E, agents recovered $2 million from underneath the floorboards.

A search of another location yielded a .380 firearm.

Mercedes and Cruz Francisco were arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court and held without bail, with their next court date set for Friday, May 22.

James Hunt, DEA special agent in charge, and Bridget Brennan, NYC Special Narcotics Prosecutor, announce the arrests and arraignments of Mercedes and Cruz Francisco on Tuesday, May 19.
Photo courtesy of the Drug Enforcement Agency

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