A long-term wiretap investigation uncovered a sophisticated network of alleged narcotics traffickers who distributed fentanyl, heroin and cocaine in New York City, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania during COVID-19, according to the city Special Prosecutor’s Office.
Of the 10 men recently arrested in connection with this investigation, three Bronx men were charged with operating as major traffickers: Jose Aquino Suarez, Eercik Abreu-Flores and Ramon Antonio Bardera. They allegedly obtained narcotics from international sources and oversaw large shipments of narcotics to the New York metropolitan area, according to officials with the prosecutor’s office.
The investigation, which began in January of 2020, found that these men and others, regularly bought and sold multi-kilogram quantities of fentanyl, heroin and cocaine to and from one another
Between August 2020 and this May, agents and officers recovered more than 120 pounds of narcotics, more than $335,000 cash and two guns, as well as drug paraphernalia associated with the packaging of narcotics.
“When pandemic border closings temporarily interrupted the flow of narcotics into the United States, these individuals are charged with scheming to smuggle lethal narcotics into New York and distribute them throughout the Northeast at inflated prices,” said Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan. “The scale of the narcotics smuggling operation upended by this investigation was staggering, as it attempted to take advantage of vulnerable communities and law enforcement facing unprecedented challenges. I thank our law enforcement partners for their dedication and commitment.”
The wiretap investigation revealed the alleged traffickers regularly communicated by phone and discussed how to obtain narcotics during the pandemic, given new challenges for drug smuggling posed by border closures. The alleged traffickers bought and sold narcotics at inflated prices as their international sources of supply became harder to access. As detailed in the indictment, on multiple occasions Bardera discussed receiving a shipment of narcotics to be sent from Peru. In August 2020, DEA special agents in the capital city of Lima intercepted a package that he expected to receive in New York, and the agents recovered a kilogram of cocaine from hollowed-out wooden footstools.
In November 2020, Bardera directed a tractor-trailer to a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot on Jerome Avenue. Shortly before midnight, authorities seized the tractor-trailer and arrested members of the drug operation, who were in possession of a piston jack, impact driver and other tools. On Nov. 25, 2020, a court-authorized search of the tractor-trailer uncovered more than 14 kilograms of heroin and fentanyl from inside the trailer axles.
In another large narcotics seizure on Feb. 24, federal agents observed Suarez make a drug deal in the vicinity of 1367 Bronx River Ave. They then obtained a court–authorized search warrant for his apartment and recovered nine plastic-wrapped kilograms of fentanyl, a duffel bag containing approximately $225,000 in cash, as well as thousands of glassine envelopes, loose powdered heroin and fentanyl, pills and drug-packaging materials.
The majority of the defendants were arrested May 13.
“As long as individuals – wherever they are based – are involved in illegal narcotics trafficking, we will work relentlessly to stop the threat to public safety,” said Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. “I commend and thank our colleagues at the city’s Special Narcotics Prosecutors, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration New York Division, Homeland Security Investigations, and the NYPD investigators involved in this investigation in building such a strong case.”