Federal, state, and local authorities announced that six people were arrested for running what the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration called a "large-scale alleged narcotics packaging and distribution network" in the Bronx, packaging the drugs in packages stamped with names like "Coronavirus."
The agency also said that investigators found about 120,000 glassine envelopes—containing heroin/fentanyl—were also stamped with names like "24 Black Mamba," "Anthrax," and "Hiroshima," and worth over $1 million.
“As New York City and the metropolitan area lose thousands of loved ones to coronavirus, six people in the Bronx are charged with mixing and distributing more than a hundred thousand packets of fentanyl and heroin stamped with the name of the deadly virus, trying to capitalize of the pandemic’s lethal reputation,” said Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan. “Taking a million dollars worth of deadly drugs off the street is critical at this time, when isolation and fear make substance users ever more vulnerable."
The alleged manager of the network, Dariel Fermin, had been under surveillance by the DEA's New York Drug Enforcement Task Force (Group T-12) and New York City's Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor. According to the DEA, agents determined there was a packaging mill at 2333 Loring Place North in University Heights, and on the evening of May 7th, they spotted a man putting a "heavy brown bag" into a waiting livery cab. After tailing the cab, they found "the brown bag yielded approximately 80,000 glassines of suspected heroin/fentanyl."
Also near the building, a woman was spotted with a "heavy black bag," which allegedly contained 40,000 glassines plus Zip Lock bags of loose powder. Hours later, the investigators obtained a search warrant where they "recovered $25,000 cash from two bedrooms of the apartment, as well as all of the packaging equipment and paraphernalia typical of a heroin/fentanyl mill, such as strainers, grinders, gloves, stamps and ink pads," per the press release.
The suspected heroin/fentanyl found in the glassines is estimated to be valued at over $1 million, and the DEA says that the "Coronavirus" + biohazard- and "24 Black Mamba"-branded drugs are "associated with multiple fatal overdoses in New Jersey. However, these deaths have not been linked to the packaging mill dismantled in this case.
Fermin was charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree and Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia in the Second Degree. Five others, Manuel Morillo; Cindy Cortoreal; Yamilka Fermin; and Ana Lora Diaz, were charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree and Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia in the Second Degree. Frank Gilberto Marte Urena, who was the livery cab driver, is charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree.