NEW YORK — At first glance, the bag looked like a kid’s birthday present but when police got their hands on it, they found a kilo of cocaine and uncovered a high-volume, international drug trafficking scheme.
“Happy Birthday” wrapping paper and stuffed toys from “Despicable Me” and “Frozen” movies concealed $225,000 worth of cocaine meant for a dealer who allegedly sold drugs in Manhattan and Brooklyn nightclubs, according to the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutors for the City of New York.
Five people have been arrested in the alleged scheme.
Albert Fortosa, 24, a suspected high-level drug trafficker in Harlem, allegedly arranged for bulk shipments of cocaine to be sent from Puerto Rico to New York City, the prosecutors office said.
Within the span of two weeks, between June 15 and July 2, the U.S. Postal inspectors seized five packages that contained cocaine and were allegedly bound for Fortosa’s organization, officials said.
This investigation began in in September 2014. During that time, four other men suspected of being connected to Fortosa’s operation allegedly sold drugs — including cocaine, heroin, Xanax and MDMA — to undercover officers on 20 different occasions, investigators said.
Those men were arrested and include Daniel Reyes, 26, a suspected drug delivery service operator in Bushwick; Derrick Santana, 25, who allegedly sold drugs in nightclubs in New York City; Joseph Owens, 44, who worked closely with Fortosa; and Mallory Claudio, 28, whose alleged involvement was not revealed, investigators said.
During the probe, detectives learned that Santana was a club dealer and through court-authorized wiretaps police discovered that Reyes was Santana’s supplier, investigators said.
They said Fortosa allegedly arranged for the packages to be sent from Puerto Rico with Owens’ help.
Fortosa was arrested on July 2 as he accepted the delivery of a package wrapped to look like a child’s birthday present, but actually concealed a kilogram of cocaine, officials said. The package, which was addressed to another individual, was inside a gift bag with a stuffed toy Minion and two boxes covered in “happy birthday” wrapping paper.
When confronted by police, Fortosa dropped the package containing the cocaine and tried to flee the building. He faces several drug charges and is accused of resisting arrest.
The other suspects were arrested Aug. 4, pleaded not guilty to their charges, and have been remanded pending bail arguments.