NEW YORK, May 20 (UPI) -- Four suspected drug traffickers were arrested and some 154 pounds of heroin was seized late Tuesday in what is being called the single largest heroin seizure in New York state history and the fourth largest in the nation.
The Drug Enforcement Administration said the heroin was worth up to $50 million, with the "the potential of supplying a dose of heroin to every man, woman and child in New York City," Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said. Investigators also seized up to $2 million in cash and a gun.
Federal agents said the major heroin ring in the Bronx had ties to the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico that had been receiving sizable shipments at least once a month to supply users in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. On Sunday, agents arrested Jose A. "Hippie" Mercedes, 46, the suspected head of the ring, and Yenci Cruz Francisco, 19. Both are charged with trafficking and possession of a controlled substance. Two others were arrested in November, but no further details were available about them.
The DEA gave this account:
On Saturday, Francisco and Mercedes and an unidentified woman drove from the Bronx to New Jersey in two separate cars, sat in a parking lot used by tractor-trailers for about an hour and headed back to the Bronx. On the way back, they swapped cars with the woman driving alone and the two men in a separate car. Later that same day, drug-sniffing dogs detected narcotics in the car.
On Sunday, agents moved in to find several large bags of heroin in a car belonging to Mercedes. Francisco was stopped as he left a safe house. Inside his car, investigators found 70 rectangular kilogram packages of heroin marked "Rolex" under a hidden compartment in the floor of the vehicle.
In November, Mercedes' son Jose Mercedes Jr., 23, and Juan Infante, 47, were arrested and charged with drug-related crimes after investigators seized 10 kilograms of heroin.
Patrick J. Brackley, a lawyer who represented Mercedes, his son and Francisco at an arraignment Tuesday, said there "needs to be more investigation" into the government's case.
"They're seemingly charged in the same conspiracy, but when the evidence comes out, it will be a different story," he said. "They have cast a very wide net."