It was ‘like an opioid landmine’: DEA 1

Approximately 39 kilograms of suspected heroin with an estimated street value of $12 million were recovered from a Ridgewood apartment, according to prosecutors.

An accused major trafficker and three other people are charged in connection with a large-scale heroin-packaging mill dismantled in Ridgewood, prosecutors announced last Wednesday.

Approximately 39 kilograms of suspected heroin with an estimated street value of $12 million, 1,000 fentanyl pills and $200,000 cash were recovered during the investigation, conducted by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, the DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, a joint city, state and federal task force called Group T-21 and Homeland Security Investigations New York.

DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan said it “was like an opioid landmine capable of dispersing hundreds of thousands of heroin doses throughout [the] Northeast.”

Luis Martinez, 48, is accused of overseeing the narcotics packaging mill inside his residence at 63-16 Forest Ave., apartment 2A, and faces charges of operating as a major trafficker, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and third degrees and criminally using drug paraphernalia in the second degree.

Three women allegedly employed by Martinez: Sofia Medina, 50, Maria Altagracia Berroa, 54, and Jacqueline Sosa De Espinal, 43, are charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and third degrees and criminally using drug paraphernalia in the second degree.

On Feb. 8, at around 4 p.m., investigators observed Martinez, a suspected narcotics trafficker, exiting the Forest Avenue building carrying a backpack.

Agents and officers stopped him as he walked down the block and found that the bag allegedly contained approximately $200,000 in cash. Martinez was also carrying four cell phones and keys to the building.

A short time later, members of T-21 entered the building and knocked on an apartment door. Medina opened the door. Inside the living room, agents and officers saw an empty heat-wrapped bag of a type used for wrapping a kilogram of narcotics. Noises were coming from behind a closed door. Upon opening the door, agents and officers discovered Sosa De Espinal and Berroa hiding inside a bathroom with the lights off.

A search of the apartment allegedly revealed that one of its two bedrooms was set up for packaging heroin. Inside the bedroom, agents and officers found 31 pressed, brickshaped packages wrapped in duct tape, each allegedly containing a kilogram of heroin, and an additional six kilograms of loose powder inside plastic containers and zip-lock style bags.

A tabletop held approximately 100,000 individual dose glassine envelopes filled with heroin, as well as empty envelopes and stamps, the authorities said. Glassine envelopes bore various brand names, including “Red Scorpion,” “The Hulk,” “Universal,” “Hard Target,” “Last Dragon,” “Dope” and “Venom.” All of the equipment necessary for processing and packaging heroin was also present in the bedroom, including digital scales, sifters and grinders.

Approximately 1,000 blue pills bearing markings similar to pharmaceutically produced oxycodone but suspected to be counterfeits containing fentanyl were also seized.

More than 26 cell phones and mail addressed to Martinez were also recovered from the apartment. The results of the DEA laboratory analysis on the narcotics are pending. The agency estimates the street value of the narcotics at $12 million.

“The shuttering of an assembly line able to pump out millions of street ready heroin packages and deadly counterfeit fentanyl pills will save lives across New York City and our entire region,” said Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan. “The volume of lethal drugs flooding our city is causing record number of overdose deaths.”

Peter Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of HSI New York, said, “This takedown will have devastating effects on this high-level opiate operation throughout the tristate area.”

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea tweeted that the drug mill was dismantled with “more than 37 kilos of heroin/fentanyl off NYC streets — never to poison a NYer.”


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