Multi-agency opioid raid yields 72 indictments

District Attorney Darcel Clark announces a major heroin operation bust that occurred in late January. The heroin and fentanyl was shipped from Mexico to New York using tractor-trailers.
Photo courtesy of District Attorney Darcel Clark’s Office

A weekend drug raid late last month that led to 72 indictments and the confiscation of 53 pounds of heroin is the latest in the ongoing effort to curb the opioid epidemic in the borough.

The Bronx district attorney’s office announced the raid, which was carried out Saturday, January 28, in conjunction with the NYPD and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The 32 defendants named were indicted on charges including multiple charges ranging from second and fourth-degree conspiracy to third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance to operating as a major trafficker, an A-1 felony.

Eighteen of the 32 defendants indicted call the Bronx home.

Twenty-two of them have already been arrested, while two are already incarcerated on separate charges.

The operation brought heroin and fentanyl, a prescription opioid far more powerful than heroin, from Honduras through Guatemala and then Mexico to Los Angeles, CA.

The drugs were then packed onto tractor-trailers in hidden spaces such as wheel wells while the trucks were loaded with legal goods and driven to Pennsylvania or the New York City area.

“This operation spanned three countries and trafficked drugs 5,200 miles,” stated District Attorney Darcel Clark. “No matter –we will go wherever investigations take us to eradicate this scourge that has destroyed lives here in the Bronx and across the nation.”

The D.A.’s office is also suing the defendants for $10.5 million in profits from the illicit operations.

The indictment dates back to February of 2016, when one of the defendants, Juan Santiago, 22, of the Bronx, allegedly sold crack cocaine to an undercover officer at the corner of Morris Avenue and McClellan Street.

The investigation included numerous recorded phone calls between defendants recorded over the course of eight months in which they discussed drug transactions being planned or implemented in the Bronx.

Two brothers – Steven Rivera, 40, of the Bronx, and Daniel Rivera, 34, of Manhattan – who communicated with other defendants via phone and text message, allegedly oversaw the operation.

Jason Alvarez, 37, of Fort Lee, NJ, whose family owns the Dominican restaurant Celia’s on West Fordham Road, was arraigned for the delivery of the drugs to the United States, according to court documents.

“His mother owns the restaurant, but he is involved with running it,” said D.A. spokeswoman Patrice O’Shaughnessy.

Alvarez was never seen carrying out drug transactions in his family’s establishment, but allegedly was seen carrying out drug-related business while he was there and was eventually arrested while leaving the restaurant, O’Shaughnessy said,

There are no plans to attempt to seize assets of the restaurant, she added.

Alvarez was allegedly recorded carrying out business at the restaurant, according to the indictment.

Alvarez, along with fellow defendants Vianet Espinal and Cynthia Alegria, drove to Pennsylvania to pick up a large shipment in April of 2016, according to the indictment.

Among other conversations recorded was one in October 2016 in which a defendant, Jeanette Sotomayor, 35, of the Bronx, was allegedly going to smuggle narcotics into Mohawk Correctional Facility in the city of Rome in central New York to give to Steven Rivera.

Fifteen Bronx residents were arrested in October of last year as part of a separate heroin crackdown carried out under the offices of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 742–4584. E-mail him at acusano@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @arthurcusano.

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