70 kg of heroin snagged in biggest-ever New York seizure


Authorized found 154 pounds of Mexican heroin inside an SUV. The drugs have a street value of more than $50 million.
A year-long Bronx drug probe delivered a stunning and sobering payoff: The seizure of enough heroin to get every one of the city’s 8.4 million residents high.
It was the largest single Drug Enforcement Administration seizure of heroin in New York State history — and the fourth biggest ever in the nation.
“This load was so large, it carried the potential of supplying a dose of heroin to every man, woman and child in New York City,” said city Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan.

Months of surveillance and wiretaps led authorities to a Chevrolet Suburban loaded with a record-setting 70 kilograms (154 pounds) of Mexican heroin with a street value of more than $50 million. Authorities also found an apartment used to stash $2 million in drug money, officials announced Tuesday.
A Bronx drug kingpin known as “Hippie” and his teen sidekick were charged with running a five-state heroin operation fueled by drugs hustled across the border and driven north, authorities said Tuesday.
Hippie’s son was busted in November, but it’s not clear if he dropped a dime on his dope-dealing dad.

Jose Mercedes (Hippie)


Yenci Cruz Francisco

The recovered drugs, neatly stuffed into 1-kilo packages with the street name Rolex, were found inside secret compartments beneath the floor of the 2006 Suburban, officials said.
The two suspects were arrested a short time apart Sunday after investigators followed the pair one day earlier to a New Jersey warehouse lot filled with tractor-trailers.
Wiretapped phone calls indicated that Jose (Hippie) Mercedes, 46, and sidekick Yenci Cruz Francisco, 19, “were expecting a multikilogram load of heroin,” according to DEA Special Agent Justin Eckart.

The two men, accompanied by an unidentified woman, spent 90 minutes at the warehouse before she drove the SUV back to the Bronx by herself, tailed by the two men, officials said.
Both men were held without bail pending a Friday court appearance. The top charge against each, operating as a major drug trafficker, carries a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
The lucrative operation was housed in a fifth-floor apartment in a leafy section of the north Bronx, near the private Horace Mann School and sprawling Van Cortlandt Park.
Neighbors in the Deauville, located on W. 251st St. in Fieldston, were rocked by word of the arrests, the seizure — and the size of what was found.
“I’m just in shock right now,” said one young mother holding her child Tuesday. “They found $2 million here! I feel scared.”
The massive takedown provided eye-popping proof of recent assertions by law enforcement that heroin’s popularity in the city was escalating to its highest levels in decades.
“New York City is the bull’s-eye for drug traffickers, and heroin is their weapon,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge James Hunt.
The Mexicans providing the drugs to Mercedes were a brazen bunch.
They came to the city in February to oversee an earlier delivery — and took some time for sight-seeing in Times Square, Brennan said.
“The Mexican traffickers had very close connections to the people we arrested over the weekend,” Brennan said. “It’s extremely troubling, and I imagine it’s very disturbing to the people who live in the neighborhood.”

The investigators tracked the pair as they drove Saturday to the lot off Interstate 287 in Montville, N.J. A drug-sniffing dog confirmed the presence of dope once the returned SUV was parked in a gated lot behind the Bronx building, officials said.
Mercedes was the first to be arrested on Sunday when he was spotted driving a 2005 Kia Sorrento near the stash apartment. Investigators spotted two large bags of heroin on the front seat, Eckert said.
One of the bags later tested positive for heroin, and officials estimate there was a half-kilo inside the Kia.
Mercedes then gave up Francisco, telling investigators about the 70 kilos of heroin — and giving them instructions on how to open the compartments where the dope was hidden, according to Eckert.
Both men were quietly and quickly taken into custody. The multi-agency squad behind the busts also found $24,000 in cash tucked inside additional hidden compartments in the SUV, said Eckert.
A .380-caliber handgun was recovered from a second-floor apartment at a different Bronx location.

Narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan speaks at a news conference Tuesday. She said suspects had ties to a Mexican cartel.

“I thought they were renovating the floors,” said Chickavelli. “I’m surprised. I’ve never seen any trafficking. It’s quiet out here.”
Defense attorney Patrick Brackley said both men were “looking forward to their day in court.”
Mercedes’ son Jose Jr. and a pal were arrested last November as the investigation continued. Authorities found 10 kilos (22 pounds) of heroin hidden behind a wall in the Bronx apartment where they were busted.
Brennan declined to say whether Jose Jr. had turned on his father, but noted that the case involved months of surveillance and wiretaps.
Both those suspects were charged with drug possession.
The Mexican shipments came north at least once a month from the city of Culiacán, an area controlled by the infamous Sinaloa Cartel, officials said.

This drug-sniffing dog, Slygo, confirmed to cops that the smack was hidden inside an SUV.

The ring, in addition to dealing in New York, sold its product in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, officials said.
“These millions of doses of heroin and millions of dollars represent much more than just a seizure,” said Raymond Palmer, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations. “They represent violence, overdoses, crime death and the suffering of our communities.”
The details were delivered at a news conference with officials from the DEA, NYPD, Homeland Security, state police and city Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s office.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, speaking recently to the Daily News Editorial Board, warned that heroin was “making a big-time comeback” in New York City.

Authorities found $2 million in drug money hidden inside a Bronx apartment.

In 2013, more New Yorkers died from heroin overdoses than from homicides, authorities said.
In the first three months of this year, the DEA seized nearly 200 pounds of heroin and the special prosecutor’s office recovered another 120 pounds of smack in the city. Last year, law enforcement agencies took roughly $300 million in heroin off the streets.
Next-door neighbor Jonathan Chickavelli, 48, said he rarely saw Mercedes and Francisco hanging around the building.
But he did hear the sounds of construction from the adjoining fifth-floor apartment — noises that now appear linked to the cash stored in a hideaway beneath the floorboards.

“I thought they were renovating the floors,” said Chickavelli. “I’m surprised. I’ve never seen any trafficking. It’s quiet out here.”


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