A 26-year-old Rockland County man was apprehended after authorities seized $2 million worth of cocaine from a fictitious jewelry business operating in the Diamond District in Manhattan, New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor said on Friday.
Junior Lopez-Pena of Haverstraw has been arrested and charged with drug trafficking.
Members of the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force (NYDETF) Group T-42 initiated a joint investigation with the DEA Los Angeles Field Division that identified two fictitious jewelry businesses: Sapphire, a company based in Los Angeles, and 21 Divine, operating out of 43 West 47th Street, suites 407 and 503, in Manhattan,
Group T-42 suspected a cocaine distribution organization was using the addresses as a front for receiving illegal drugs which would ultimately be distributed throughout New York City and the Tri-State area.
On Wednesday, members of Group T-42 identified three suspicious packages en route from Sapphire in Los Angeles to 21 Divine in Manhattan and the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor obtained a court authorized search warrant for the three packages and for 43 West 47th Street, suites 407 and 503, authorities said.
At approximately 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, agents and investigators conducted surveillance at 43 West 47th Street and observed deliverymen carry packages inside orange bags into suite 503 and then depart. A man, later identified as Lopez-Pena, was arrested as he attempted to exit the location after the package delivery, said authorities. Lopez-Pena was in possession of keys to suite 503, according to authorities.
Members of Group T-42 conducted a court authorized search of the packages and both suites associated with 21 Divine and seized 54 kilograms of cocaine from the three packages inside of suite 503 as well as an additional kilogram of cocaine from suite 407. The total amount of cocaine amounts to about 121 pounds. A money counter was also recovered from suite 503.
Lopez-Pena faces charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and third degrees.
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan thanked her office’s Special Investigations Bureau, the DEA’s Los Angeles Field Division and the DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, including members of the New York City Police Department and the New York State Police, for their work on the case.
“This brazen trafficking scheme involved the delivery of 55 kilograms of cocaine to a bustling commercial center in Midtown Manhattan during broad daylight," Brennan said. "By disrupting the supply chain and seizing $2 million in narcotics we undoubtedly saved lives. Cocaine has been identified as one of the drugs responsible for the spike in recent overdose deaths in New York City. I commend the excellent investigative work of our law enforcement partners.”
DEA Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt stated, “This load of cocaine seized in the Diamond District sets off alarms here in New York that Mexican drug trafficking organizations have increased efforts to funnel cocaine to New Yorkers. Over the past two years, Colombian cocaine cultivation has dramatically increased, reaching record levels of production. New York drug law enforcement is on the forefront in shutting down traffickers’ efforts by seizing their loads and making arrests.”