Investigation Charges 28-Person Narcotics Operation With Conspiring To Purchase And Sell Tens of Thousands of Dangerous Prescription Pills Resulting In 181-Count Indictments
Attorney General Letitia James and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced the indictment of 28 individuals involved in a large narcotics trafficking ring operating in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Westchester County and Connecticut. This network of oxycodone dealers and resellers were selling tens of thousands of prescription oxycodone pills, to countless customers on a daily basis. The two indictments, unsealed in Bronx County Supreme Court today, charged the 28 alleged co-conspirators with 181-counts of conspiracy, criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a controlled substance, and other charges.
“There is zero tolerance for those who flood our communities with dangerous narcotics that claim lives,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “These individuals allegedly made profit off of prescription drugs and trafficked tens of thousands of highly addictive pills throughout New York City and Westchester. In order to combat the opioid crisis that is destroying our communities, we must tackle the issue from every angle and this investigation is our latest effort to take down those who sell these illicit drugs.”
“These arrests are significant because they bring attention to an emerging threat – oxycodone trafficking networks,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan. “Oxycodone pills have replaced heroin glassines on the street, and heroin trafficking rings’ new competition are oxycodone distribution organizations. This criminal motley crew had the means to distribute nearly two million oxycodone pills annually throughout counties of New York and Connecticut; but as a result of collaborative law enforcement efforts, their operation has been shut down and put out of business.”
Over the course of the ten-month investigation, which was led by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF), in partnership with the DEA Westchester Tactical Diversion Squad (TDS), authorities seized approximately 1,200 oxycodone pills of varying dosages. During this time, the operation sold over 23,000 oxycodone pills, with a street value exceeding $2 million. Today’s takedown was dubbed “Operation Oxy-Concourse” due to the volume of oxycodone sales in and around Grand Concourse in the Bronx County.
The investigation included hundreds of hours of physical and covert surveillance, court-authorized wiretapping of numerous target phones, and the review of subpoena compliance including phone and Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement records. During the course of the wiretapping, conspirators frequently utilized coded and cryptic terminology in an attempt to disguise their illicit narcotics trafficking, such as referring to prescription pills as “footballs”, and referring to specific dosages of oxycodone pills based on the color of the pills, for example “yellows”, “pinks” and “blues”, and the milligram dosage, for example “15’s”, “20’s”, “30’s” and “big ones”.
As alleged in the indictment, members of the criminal network focused their operation on the purchase and resale of prescription oxycodone pills. Elba Sanchez purchased prescriptions for large amounts of oxycodone from over a dozen sources in and around Kings County, and then sold the oxycodone to Wilkins Almonte. Often this was done with the assistance of Michael Sanchez and/or Richard De Pena Rodriguez. Wilkins and Esteban Almonte would then distribute the oxycodone, mainly from within the High Class Barberi in Bronx County, where both brothers worked as barbers. Wilkins Almonte utilized several other Bronx County sources, procuring oxycodone from Dora Sarita-Duran, Jeffrey Tavarez, Yamzi Aquino, Raul Morales, Luis DeJesus and others. The Almonte brothers had multiple Bronx-based customers, but their largest customers were Joel and Jovany Lopez, who would purchase the bulk oxycodone in the Bronx and re-sell it to dozens of end users in and around Waterbury, Connecticut.
The investigation uncovered that the organization distributed upwards of 23,000 oxycodone tablets. In each case, it is believed that the pills were paid for multiple times. For example, the initial source would pay $300 each for the doctor visit and the pharmacy (some of which were covered by insurance) for 100 oxycodone tablets (totaling $600).Those sources typically re-sold the 100 pills for approximately $10 per pill ($1,000) to a collecting manager (like Elba Sanchez). The collecting manager would then re-sell those 100 pills for approximately $18 per pill ($1,800) to the distributor (like Wilkins Almonte).The distributor would then re-sell those same 100 pills for approximately $23 per pill ($2,300) to the street-level dealer, who would then sell them to end users for approximately $30 per pill ($3,000). Thus, the average amount of currency transacted from a single 100-tablet prescription was approximately $8,700. Consequently, it is estimated that the street-value of the oxycodone sold during this 10-month investigation exceeded 2 million dollars.
The first indictment, unsealed today before Bronx County Acting Supreme Court Judge Ralph Fabrizio, charged 21 individuals, with crimes that include Conspiracy in the Second Degree among other charges, and various counts of “A” and “B” felony Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, including six individuals charged with “A” felony level counts.
The second indictment charged Elba Sanchez and seven others, with crimes that include Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, and various counts of “B” felony Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance. This second indictment charged these individuals, primarily in Kings County, with filling oxycodone prescriptions on a monthly basis, and then selling them to Elba Sanchez.
This takedown marks the latest drug bust since the launching of the Attorney General’s SURGE Initiative (Suburban and Upstate Response to the Growing Epidemic) on New York’s growing – and often violent – heroin, opioid, and narcotics trafficking networks. Since launching in 2017, SURGE has taken 465 alleged traffickers off the streets.
The Attorney General would like to thank the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, and the U.S. Army National Guard Counterdrug Task Force for their assistance in this investigation.
The investigation was directed by OCTF Investigators Kyle Vitale-O’Sullivan and Sixto Santiago, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Bradford Miller and Downstate OCTF Deputy Chief Christopher Vasta with the assistance of OCTF Legal Analyst Stephanie Tirado and members of the DEA Westchester TDS. The Attorney General’s Investigations Bureau is led by Acting Chief Investigator John Reidy.
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.