13 Arrested in Takedown on June 20; Supplier Has Pleaded Guilty and Was Sentenced to Six Years
Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark, New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, and NYC Business Integrity Commissioner and Chair Daniel D. Brownell today announced that an investigation into the dealing of the dangerous opioid fentanyl in the Hunts Point Produce Market has resulted in seven people indicted for selling the drug inside the market and near school grounds, and the supplier being sentenced to prison.
District Attorney Clark said, “The defendants allegedly handled this toxic, deadly substance among fruits and vegetables in the Hunts Point Produce Market, which supplies produce to millions of people throughout the New York area. They also allegedly sold drugs from a residence around the corner from a school. We will not tolerate callous, careless behavior that could put people’s health at risk.”
Commissioner O’Neill said, “The NYPD’s efforts to rid New York City of drug traffickers and combat the opioid crisis are greatly strengthened by our close partnerships with the Bronx District Attorney’s Office and the Business Integrity Commission. I commend everyone involved in this case, particularly the undercover officers who put themselves directly in harm’s way. Anyone who deals in illegal narcotics should understand that the nation’s best investigators will stop at nothing to effectively fight crime and keep people safe.”
Commissioner and Chair Brownell said, “The produce market in Hunts Point is one of the largest public wholesale produce markets in the world and one of this City’s great, unique institutions. BIC has been overseeing this and the other public wholesale food markets in the City since 2002. In addition to making sure that the companies operating within them are free from the influences of organized crime and other corrupt forces, BIC also works to protect the overall well-being of the markets themselves. Selling and using illegal drugs around the markets is dangerous enough, especially given that many large trucks and other motor vehicles are constantly operating in the area. When you add to this the fact that some of these drugs were laced with the dangerous opioid fentanyl, potentially exposing the public at large to harm, that causes even more alarm. BIC will continue working with other law enforcement agencies and the managers of the markets themselves when appropriate to ensure that New York City’s public wholesale markets continue to thrive.”
District Attorney Clark said 13 defendants were arrested on June 20, 2018 by NYPD detectives. Seven of the defendants have been indicted on felony narcotics charges and have been arraigned on various dates in Bronx Supreme Court. If convicted on the top count of third-degree Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance and third-degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, the defendants could face a minimum of one to three years to a maximum of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison
The other defendants face felony charges of Conspiracy to Distribute Narcotics and have been arraigned in Criminal Court.
According to the investigation, which began in May, 2017 after the Business Integrity Commission brought information about possible heroin sales in the market to the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, undercover officers made numerous buys of $20 glassines in employee-only areas in the market unmonitored by video cameras, and the glassines were found to contain fentanyl and heroin.
The Bronx District Attorney’s Special Investigations Bureau directed wiretap surveillance, which led to the supplier of the fentanyl and heroin, Angel Capote, 31, of Gravett Road, Queens, who was arrested in December, 2017. He pleaded guilty to third-degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance and was sentenced on June 27, 2018 to six years in prison. He is believed to have been selling $3,000 in fentanyl and heroin a week.
In January, 2018, the focus of the investigation moved to a private residence at 617 Coster Street, several blocks from the market and around the corner from PS 48 Joseph R. Drake School. Wanda Alvarez Ortiz, 54, and Mark Fontanez, 39, who both reside in the apartment, were indicted for third-degree Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance and Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance In or Near School Grounds.
District Attorney Clark thanked Detective Emilio Bermonty and Captain Christopher Fasano of the NYPD Criminal Enterprise Investigations Section for their work in the investigation.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.
Wanda Alvarez-Ortiz, 54, 617 Coster Street, Bronx
Luis DeJesus, 55, 3574 DeKalb Avenue, Bronx
Mark Fontanez, 39, 617 Coster Street, Bronx
Christopher Mayorga, 28, 25-34 100th Street, Queens
Jason Medina, 39, 2070 Powell Avenue, Bronx
Jovanny Torres, 27, Gay Ridge Road, Yorktown Heights, NY
Nelson Troche, 48, 1866 Bronxdale Avenue, Bronx
ALSO ARRESTED ON JUNE 20, CHARGED WITH FELONY CONSPIRACY
Anthony Antonucci, 34, Sasson Terrace, Valley Cottage, NY
Heriberto Araujo, 328 East 145th Street, Bronx
Alex Bonilla, 35, Circle Drive, Elmont, NY
Kaitlyn Jefferson, 37, Margaret Lane, Thiells, NY
Fabian Morales, 42, 2759 Webster Avenue, Bronx
Darryl Ricchiuti, 33, Manor Road, Yaphank, NY