JAMAICA, Queens (PIX11) — An accused drug trafficker from Queens was allegedly stashing fentanyl mixed with xylazine, the animal tranquilizer known as “tranq,” at a CubeSmart self-storage facility in Jamaica, according to an indictment recently filed by Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan.
The CubeSmart is located on Jamaica Avenue near 179th Street.
“It is astonishing how quickly xylazine has saturated the drug supply in New York City,” Brennan said. “The combination of xylazine and fentanyl is particularly lethal because xylazine does not respond to the overdose-reversing drug, Naloxone.”
Robert Oliver, who lives close by on 161st Street in Jamaica, was followed from his home on Jan. 26 by members of the El Dorado Task Force, which investigates money laundering, according to the indictment.
Oliver traveled to La Quinta Inn and Suites on Queens Boulevard, where he was stopped by Homeland Security agents and other members of the task force, according to the indictment.
When Oliver was asked to open the trunk of his white Lexus, the agents and officers discovered more than $50,000 in cash, which was vacuum-packed with heat sealant in clear plastic bags, according to the indictment.
The agents said Oliver had a key ring, and a couple of the keys on it had a red, plastic covering with the CubeSmart logo.
When the investigators secured a court-authorized warrant, they searched two units at the CubeSmart storage facility and said they found nearly 20 kilos of fentanyl, a man-made opioid. At least one of the kilos was laced with tranq, according to the indictment.
Xylazine was approved 50 years ago by the Food and Drug Administration for use as an animal sedative and pain reliever. It was never meant for human consumption. The FDA recently sought to limit xylazine imports into the United States, but the sedative is often purchased online from Chinese websites.
Tranq has been making national headlines in the last month.
PIX11 News was among the first TV stations to visit Philadelphia, where the horse tranquilizer is mixed into 90% of the drug supply, according to officials. The drug causes unsightly ulcers on the skin of many users that can lead to finger or limb amputations. PIX11 News then learned that tranq was present in about 20% of recent fatal overdoses in New York City; it’s always mixed with another drug like heroin, cocaine or fentanyl.
The Drug Enforcement Administration just issued a Public Safety Alert about tranq being mixed with fentanyl, which has driven up fatal overdose rates nationally in the last decade. More than 107,000 Americans died from overdoses in a 12-month period between August 2021 and August 2022, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Prosecutors initially convinced a judge to set a high bail of $750,000 cash or $1.1 million bond for Oliver, but that was lowered by a second judge to $100,000 cash or $300,000 insured bond. Over the People’s objection, a partially secured bail bond was approved for Oliver. His next scheduled court date is May 31.
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