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9 indicted in Bronx-based heroin distribution ring

NEW YORK-Nine members of a Bronx-based narcotics ring were indicted Wednesday following a joint investigation by the DEA and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York.

The following seven of the nine defendants were arrested Wednesday: Julio Llerandez, Eric Ruiz, Lester Cooper, Danny Yance, Carlos Vargas, Jose Morales and Mark Serrano.

James Tobar is expected to surrender to authorities later today. Matthew Green remains at large. The defendants in custody were presented in Manhattan federal court Wednesday.

"By pooling our expertise and resources, we have dismantled another group that has been importing and selling heroin throughout New York City," said James T. Hayes, Jr., special agent in charge of ICE's Office of HSI in New York. "Dangerous and highly addictive drugs like heroin perpetuate crime and violence in our communities. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to address this threat."

According to the complaint and other documents filed in Manhattan federal court:

Between September 2009 and August 2010, a heroin distribution ring led by Llerandez and Ruiz dispensed significant quantities of heroin in the Bronx. Llerandez, Ruiz, and others distributed the drugs through meetings in apartment buildings and parking lots. For example, on two separate occasions, a confidential informant working with DEA officials purchased distribution quantities, or bundles, of heroin from Llerandez in an apartment building.

Llerandez received heroin from various suppliers including Ruiz, Yance, Tobar, Vargas, and Morales. Llernadez distributed heroin through orders placed by Cooper, Green, and Serrano. Llerandez also directly filled orders placed by customers. Various telephone conversations, during which defendants specified the amount of drugs, the price of the drugs, and the place and time to do the drug deals, were recorded by law enforcement authorities.

Early Wednesday, law enforcement officers executed court authorized search warrants at two locations in the Bronx at which certain defendants stored and/or distributed heroin or stored the proceeds of this illegal activity. During these searches, officers recovered, among other evidence, approximately half a kilogram of heroin.

DEA Special Agent in Charge John P. Gilbride stated: "This operation identified a heroin distribution organization that was preying on our communities.'Operation Skeleton Army'
uncovered a drug organization selling heroin throughout the streets of New York. Federal, local, and state law enforcement combined efforts in order to arrest those responsible for the distribution and those responsible for making profit off the sale of poison."

This case is being handled by the Office's Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer E. Burns, Rachel P. Kovner, and Kan Nawaday are in charge of the prosecution.