$8 million worth of heroin seized in raid by New York police, some bags stamped 'NFL'
Julia Lull, CNN
3:34 PM, Feb 1, 2014
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A heroin processing location holding $8 million worth of the drug was busted in New York, along with drug paraphernalia stamped with brands such as "NFL" and "government shutdown," authorities said Friday.
A raid, which involved the DEA's New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, New York City police, and New York State Police, netted 33 pounds of heroin at a Bronx apartment that served as a "high-volume heroin packaging location," according to a statement from New York's Special Narcotics Prosecutor's Office.
The bust was the product of a surveillance operation in the Williamsbridge section of the Bronx on Thursday night, authorities said.
Cristino Then, 25, was arrested after officers observed him delivering a package to the residence, the statement said. He was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree and criminally using drug paraphernalia in the second degree.
Shortly after Then was picked up, another suspect, Augustin Rivera, was seen climbing out of a fifth-floor window of the same residence, the statement said. He was arrested on the same charges as Then. Both men were to be arraigned later Friday.
Police entered the residence through a fire escape on the fifth floor, the statement said. They seized the heroin and drug paraphernalia, including 18 coffee grinders, rubber bands, baking soda, face masks, and "hundreds of thousands of individual 'glassine' bags stamped with numerous "brand names" including 'NFL,' 'Government Shutdown,' 'iPhone,' and 'Olympics 2012,'" the statement said.
Law enforcement officials said coffee grinders are typically used in heroin processing to cut the pure substance with a diluting agent such as baking soda.
Heroin laced with dangerous substances such as fentanyl, a painkiller used by cancer patients, in recent weeks resulted at least 22 deaths from overdoses in Pennsylvania.
In New York, the Nassau County Medical Examiner's Office was investigating several deaths linked to heroin laced with fentanyl, Nassau County police said in a statement Friday. Evidence from two of cases was analyzed and determined to contain fentanyl in combination with the banned compound antipyretic metamizole. Metamizole is an analgesic, and antipyretic is a fever reducer that is similar in use to ibuprofen, the statement said. The glassine packets in which the heroin was packed were stamped as "24K" in red ink.
Referring to the bust in the Bronx, Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said in a statement: "A seizure of this size should open everyone's eyes to the magnitude of the heroin problem confronting us. We've heard from public officials throughout the Northeast of soaring addiction within their own localities."
She added, "The brand names used are tied to upcoming events, indicating the savvy and sophistication of the heroin distribution ring."