MANHATTAN (PIX11) — Former NYPD Detective Michael Alcazar once worked undercover in the nightclub districts of Manhattan, looking for signs of drug dealing–or drugging of potential robbery victims.

He said the city’s problems with gun violence have shifted resources.

“There’s a shortage of undercover detectives investigating these locations,” Alcazar said,  “Even the bars know the cops aren’t there.”

The bars and clubs came under scrutiny after a Brooklyn social worker died shortly after leaving a gay bar on West 46th Street in April. Julio Ramirez, 25, was found dead in the back seat of a cab downtown, after leaving the Hell’s Kitchen area with three men who got into a taxi with him.

“I guess with this pandemic, everybody is so happy to be out, and their guard is down,” Alcazar said, “and they’re not watching their drinks.”

After stories about Julio Ramirez surfaced in late May, his close friend, Karinina Quimpo, told PIX11 News she received messages from four other people. Three were young men who said they were robbery victims who had survived apparent druggings. A fourth message came from a woman who said her brother-in-law died of a possible drugging after leaving a bar in Manhattan.

“These guys are not medical personnel,” Alcazar said of the robbery crews that are probably using narcotics like GHB, often called the “date rape” drug or the “forget pill.”

“They’re not measuring it, they’re just putting it in there,” Alcazar said of the narcotic, which can be used to spike drinks and has an anesthetic-like effect on victims.  “And, you know, this could be very deadly. They could easily overdose somebody.”

A Westchester County mom contacted PIX11 News after we did a second report on the Julio Ramirez investigation, saying her son was victimized in 2017 in a slightly different way, with some kind of drug-soaked cloth or spray used to incapacitate him. The mother said her son, then 22, was leaving a private club in Midtown.  

“I was on the telephone with him, and the phone went dead,” the mom, who didn’t want to be identified, told PIX11 News.

The mother said the family started receiving inappropriate texts and then received a FaceTime call that the son’s phone had been ditched on Park Avenue and 39th Street.

The mother said more than four hours later, a black Escalade pulled up to her home in Westchester County, so she went to the garage as her dogs were barking.

“And as I’m opening up the garage door, I noticed there were a middle-aged woman who was putting my code into the garage,” the mother recalled.

The Westchester woman said the stranger tried walking into her kitchen, claiming she was a college friend of her 22-year-old son.She said the whites of her son’s eyes appeared to be glowing.

The mom said she managed to get the strange woman out of her house and her son went right to bed.  There was a muddy footprint on his jacket, she recalled.

The next morning, cash withdrawals were made from a GameStop store on Liberty Avenue in Brooklyn followed by a $3,000 withdrawal from a Chase ATM in Ozone Park, Queens.

“We had a limit, and his limit was $500,” the mother said.  “So the bank doesn’t know how they got that much money.”

The mother went to the NYPD and detectives showed her how the top layer of chip on her son’s debit cards had been removed.

The Westchester woman said her son had his blood and urine tested for all kinds of drugs, but the results came up negative. GHB can leave the body within 24 hours of ingestion.

The woman said it was a good thing that her son’s account was linked to her, because she received the alert about potential fraud the morning after the bizarre incident involving the Escalade.

PIX11 News also spoke to an attorney who represents another young man who believes he was drugged–and robbed–two weeks before Julio Ramirez died in the cab.

“Once they’ve drugged somebody, they can use ‘Face ID’ to get the phone unlocked,” the attorney said.  
“They need to act quickly,” the attorney said of police, “because we don’t need another victim getting accidentally murdered.”