The investigation took almost a year, but NYS Attorney General Letitia James and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration got their man, actually ‘men,’ seizing over $2 million worth of drugs, 1,200 oxycodone pills of varying dosages, while arresting over two dozen dealers and pill pushers that were operating in and around the Bronx on Thursday, May 2.
The extensive DEA undercover op was called ‘Operation Oxy-Concourse’ due to the high circulation and distribution of the drug on the Grand Concourse, according to the DEA.
The DEA also verified that the drug ring was operating in Brooklyn, Westchester and Connecticut as well.
During the ten-month investigation, over 23,000 oxycodone pills were sold by the alleged dealers, authorities said.
The twenty-eight suspects were charged under two indictments in Bronx County Supreme Court, leading to 181-counts of conspiracy, criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a controlled substance and other charges which carry a near life sentence in prison.
The investigation included hundreds of hours of physical and covert surveillance, court-authorized wiretapping of numerous target phones, and the review of subpoena compliance including phone and Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement records the DEA said.
During the course of the wiretapping, conspirators frequently utilized coded and cryptic terminology in an attempt to disguise their illicit narcotics trafficking, referring to prescription pills as ‘footballs’ and describing specific dosages of oxycodone pills by their color, blue being the strongest dose.
This case, one of the largest narcotics crackdowns in James’ short tenure is being prosecuted by the state’s Organized Crime Task Force Assistant Deputy Attorney General Thomas Luzio.
“These individuals allegedly made profit off of prescription drugs and trafficked tens of thousands of highly addictive pills throughout New York City,” said James upon announcing the drug bust.
“There is zero tolerance for those who flood our communities with dangerous narcotics that claim lives,” the AG continued.
One of the accused, Elba Sanchez, paid to get prescriptions to purchase large amounts of oxycodone from over a dozen sources in and around Brooklyn and then sold the oxycodone to Bronx connection Wilkins Almonte, the complaint alleges.
He also utilized several other Bronx sources, procuring oxycodone from Dora Sarita-Duran, Jeffrey Tavarez, Yamzi Aquino, Raul Morales, Luis DeJesus and others, according to the DEA.
“These arrests are significant because they bring attention to an emerging oxycodone trafficking networks threat,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan. “Oxycodone pills have replaced heroin glassines on the street, and heroin trafficking rings’ new competition are oxycodone distribution organizations,” he had continued.
A single 100-tablet subscription of the drug sold had a street value of $8,700 according to authorities.
Almonte had multiple Bronx-based customers, but their largest buyers were Joel and Jovany Lopez, who would purchase the bulk oxycodone in the Bronx and re-sell it to dozens of end users in and around Waterbury, CT, the DEA charges.
“This criminal motley crew had the means to distribute nearly two million oxycodone pills annually throughout counties of New York and Connecticut; but as a result of collaborative law enforcement efforts, their operation has been shut down and put out of business,” Donovan said.