4 arrested, $200,000 seized in Queens heroin mill bust: officials

Queens
Queens heroin mill bust

QUEENS — Four people were arrested and over $200,000 cash and $12 million in street value of heroin and fentanyl was seized in a heroin mill bust in Queens, officials said.

The bust took place on Forest Avenue in Ridgewood, where Luis Martinez is accused of overseeing a narcotics packaging mill inside his residence. At around 4 p.m. Monday, special narcotics prosecutor investigators and members of the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force were conducting surveillance when they saw Martinez carrying a backpack. Agents and officers stopped him as he walked down the block and found that the bag allegedly contained $200,000 in cash.

Martinez was also carrying four cellphones and the keys to the residence. Shortly after, investigators entered the building and knocked on the door of his apartment. One of the three women Martinez employed opened the door. Inside the living room, agents and officers found an empty, heat-wrapped bag that is used for wrapping a kilogram of narcotics. They also reported noises coming from behind a closed door.

When they opened that door, agents discovered two other women, employees of Martinez, hiding in a bathroom with the lights off. A search unveiled that one of the apartment’s two bedrooms was used for packaging heroin, as investigators found 31 pressed, brick-shaped packages wrapped in duct tape, each allegedly containing a kilogram of heroin, as well as an additional six kilograms of loose power inside plastic containers and zip-lock style bags. There was also a tabletop holding approximately 100,000 individual envelopes filled with heroin.

The envelopes bore various brand names, including “Red Scorpion,” “The Hulk,” “Universal,” “Hard Target,” “Last Dragon, “Dope” and “Venom.” All of the equipment necessary for processing and packaging heroin was also present in the bedroom, including digital scales, sifters and grinders. Agents and officers also seized approximately 1,000 blue pills bearing markings similar to pharmaceutically produced oxycodone, but suspected to be counterfeits containing fentanyl.

More than 26 cellphones and mail addressed to Martinez were also seized from the apartment. DEA laboratory analysis on the narcotics in this case were pending as of Wednesday. Officials estimated the street value of the narcotics at $12 million.

Martinez was arrested on charges of operating as a major trafficker, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and third degrees and criminally using drug paraphernalia in the second degree. The three women allegedly employed by Martinez — Sofia Medina, Maria Altagracia Berroa and Jacqueline Sosa de Espinal, faced charges of criminal possession and criminally using drug paraphernalia. They were all scheduled to be arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court Wednesday morning.

“The volume of lethal drugs flooding our city is causing record number of overdose deaths. This investigation succeeded because of the expertise and cooperation of our federal and local partners,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said.

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