When Wilfredo Aquino drove his car up to the warehouse at 42nd and Broadway on Aug. 1, he did not know federal Drug Enforcement Agents were watching him and the warehouse, waiting nearby for when he came back out and got back into his car. They stopped him a short time later and found cocaine that was allegedly in the car.
This was a bustling part of the Broadway shopping district, an area with small food stores, hardware stores and auto parts stores, not at all an area that most people would think of a part of a drug-distribution network.
Meanwhile, agents for the Drug Enforcement Agency said they saw another man, Eduardo Andino, allegedly drive a minivan away from the warehouse. A few blocks away, a law enforcement officer observed the minivan parked near a Cadillac Escalade. The hatch of the Escalade was open, and there were two men near the open hatch. Law enforcement officers later stopped the minivan, allegedly driven by Andino, and the Escalade, as allegedly driven by Omar Aponte. Cocaine was allegedly found inside the Escalade.
Search and seizure
During a search of the warehouse and of Aponte’s and Aquino’s cars, 351 brick-shaped packages of suspected cocaine were seized. In the warehouse, some of the packages were concealed in shipping palettes that contained bamboo flooring. Packages seized from each of the cars and the warehouse, according to the DEA, tested positive for the presence of cocaine. Each of the brick-shaped packages contains approximately one kilogram of cocaine.
“As alleged, these defendants were caught red-handed with prodigious quantities of cocaine that would ultimately have found its way to the streets of our communities.” -- Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Wilbert L. Plummer, the Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), said Eduardo Andino, Omar Aponte and Wilfredo Aquino were charged in connection with the seizure of approximately 350 kilograms of cocaine. The wholesale value of the cocaine is more than $13 million.
“As alleged, these defendants were caught red-handed with prodigious quantities of cocaine that would ultimately have found its way to the streets of our communities, had it not been for the outstanding investigative work of law enforcement,” said Bharara. “Thanks to their efforts, this alleged narcotics trafficking ring has been thwarted and millions of dollars worth of cocaine has been seized.”
“These arrests demonstrate the continued combined investigative efforts of federal, state, local and host nation counterparts which identify and bring to justice drug traffickers at the highest levels responsible for inundating our communities with illegal drugs,” said Plummer.
The defendants are each charged with conspiring to distribute and possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance. They will face a maximum of life imprisonment, with a mandatory minimum term of 10 years’ imprisonment, and a maximum $10 million fine if convincted. The three defendants appeared before Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis on Aug. 2 and were detained without bail.
Bharara praised the investigative work of the DEA New York Field Division, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Newark, the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, the City of Yonkers Police Department, and the Bayonne Police Department.
Bayonne Police Chief Ralph Scanni said local officers cooperated fully with the federal investigation. The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Lonergan is in charge of the prosecution.