A fentanyl and heroin mill was discovered in a Central Park West apartment when federal and local authorities busted an Uber driver and three other men on Friday. Investigators found nine kilograms (about 20 pounds) of both drugs, as well as $30,000 cash, a gun, empty glassines branded "Panda," "Black Friday" and "Wild Card," and 1,110 glassines filled with powder that were stamped "Uber."
"Fentanyl is the deadliest street drug to ever hit this country. This seizure alone contains enough potency to kill half of the population of New York City, if laboratory analysis proves it is all fentanyl," DEA Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt said in a statement. "Fentanyl is manufactured death that drug dealers are mixing with heroin."
Around 3:35 p.m. on August 4th, the DEA says that members of the DEA Strike Force, Financial Investigations Team (FIT), and the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s (SNP) Investigators Unit had been surveilling in the vicinity of 448 Central Park West when they saw David Rodriguez leave the apartment building carrying a white shopping bag with two boxes inside. He then got into a Honda Accord, driven by Uber driver Richard Rodriguez, and the pair headed to 121st Street and Amsterdam Avenue, where they were stopped by investigators.
Inside the car, the DEA says that investigators found one box with "six large cylindrical packages wrapped in tape and plastic wrap in addition to the plastic bag of tan powder" and "one large cylindrical package wrapped in tape and plastic wrap and one clear plastic bag containing a tan powdery substance" in the other box. Believing the substances were fentanyl and heroin, investigators arrested David Rodriguez and Richard Rodriguez.
Around 5 p.m., investigators watching 448 Central Park West approached Jesus Perez-Cabral and Johnny Beltrez, and Perez-Cabral allegedly said he lived in the building and admitted to have drugs and gun in his apartment. After obtaining a search warrant, investigators found:
- "two large ziplock bags containing approximately three kilograms of a suspected fentanyl and heroin combination from inside a hall closet, as well as 1,100 individual dose glassine envelopes that had been filled with powder and stamped with the brand name 'UBER'"
- "a loaded .25 caliber Beretta pistol wedged between two couch cushions"
- "$30,000 in cash, several identification cards for other individuals, multiple cellphones and ledgers"
- "supplies and paraphernalia consistent with a heroin/fentanyl packaging mill were seized including: stamps, rubber bands, folding tables, boxes of ziplock bags, a heat sealing device, gloves, masks, and empty glassines branded 'Panda,' 'Black Friday' and 'Wild Card.'"
The drugs were taken to the DEA's labs for testing; according to the agency, "The street value of the drugs seized is estimated at a minimum of $3 million, but could be millions of dollars more depending on the potency and proportion of fentanyl to heroin."
The Department of Health says fentanyl is the reason why fatal overdoses have spiked 46% in 2016.
Perez-Cabral, David Rodriguez, Johnny Beltrez and Richard Rodriguez were charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance and conspiracy. Perez-Cabral was also charged with criminal possession of a firearm.
"The volume of heroin and highly potent fentanyl entering New York City is staggering, but so is the amount being removed from the streets as a result of successful collaborations between law enforcement partners. In this case millions of dollars in suspected heroin and fentanyl was seized just steps from Central Park, a top destination for New Yorkers and tourists alike," Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said. "By reducing the supply of these dangerous drugs, we are saving lives and sending a clear message that those who seek to profit by peddling poison will be put out of business and brought to justice."
One Upper West Side resident told NBC New York, "It's shocking. You never know this stuff is happening until somebody gets arrested."