Federal agents arrested a firefighter yesterday on charges that he sold prescription drugs outside of his Red Hook firehouse. The law caught up to Daniel Torres, 33, on the Staten Island Expressway early Tuesday morning following a wiretap investigation that prosecutors allege showed Torres scheduled and carried out sales of Vicodin and Xanax in front of the Engine 279 Ladder 131 firehouse in Red Hook, and in front of a nearby gas station in Gowanus. The charges lay out two separate transactions over the summer, in which Torres allegedly hocked 188 pills in all. He also allegedly offered the customer in Gowanus a sample of heroin.
Torres is an eight-year veteran of the FDNY and, prosecutors say, was living in Rahway, New Jersey, in violation of a department residency requirement. The agency reassigned him to the recruitment unit this fall.
"These are very serious charges that—if true—will result in his termination as a firefighter,” FDNY Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a statement.
Torres faces 10 counts, all but one of them felonies, of selling and conspiring to sell drugs. Prosecutors made a big deal out of Torres's former firehouse being three blocks from a daycare and the gas station being a block from an Islamic school, and three of the charges are for selling drugs within 1,000 feet of school grounds. Among the charges, these carry the most severe possible penalties: as many as 25 years in prison on each count.
Studies have shown that selling drugs "near" a school or daycare facility in New York is not particularly remarkable—nearly 20 percent of the city is within 1,000 feet of one—and that heightened penalties for drug sales based on geographic proximity to schools, parks, and places of worship have a disproportionate impact on dense urban areas, meaning that as they have gone into effect around the country, they have contributed to the racial disparity in the U.S. prison population.
Torres is being held on $25,000 bail. His attorney did not immediately respond to a message left at his office.