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Organized crime task force dismantle heroin operation, $20 million in heroin seized

NEW YORK – Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and members of the New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force dismantled a heroin distribution operation and arrested a Queens man.

Special agents arrested Jose Santiago Diaz, 44, a Dominican Republic national who worked in the Queens apartment where heroin was repacked for distribution.

During a search warrant, special agents seized 39 kilos of heroin from the ground floor apartment on Wednesday evening. The heroin has an estimated street value of more than $20 million. Eight packages of pressed heroin weighing nearly three pounds each were found lying on the floor of the studio apartment, while another 11 packages were recovered from inside a duffel bag. A makeshift assembly line had been set up on a table, complete with kilo presses and multiple buckets containing grinders, sifters and other drug paraphernalia. Another 10 kilograms of loose heroin was on the table with the buckets. Brown sugar used as a cutting agent was also recovered from the apartment.

Special agents and detectives with the strike force had been conducting surveillance at the suspected location for several weeks prior to the search. On Tuesday night, members of the strike force team observed an individual wearing latex gloves, typically worn by heroin mill workers, exit the front door of the building and then return inside. Moments later the special agents saw an individual wearing latex gloves open a window in the ground floor apartment. Special agents and detectives approached the building and noticed a strong odor of heroin emanating from a window and an air conditioner.

Shortly after midnight, Diaz exited the building and drove off in a vehicle. Special agents stopped the car and detained Diaz after he made inconsistent statements. Special agents detected the smell of heroin on Diaz and determined that he was in possession of the keys to the ground floor apartment.

Members of the strike force contacted the Port Authority Police K-9 Unit, which dispatched a Port Authority police officer and a K-9 dog to the building. Upon sniffing the door to the residence, the dog signaled the presence of narcotics. Special agents later searched the residence and found significant quantities of heroin.

"Heroin not only poses a significant public safety risk, it also generates huge profits that are often funneled back into other types of illegal activity," said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York. The seizures and arrests are a testament to HSI's commitment to keep illegal drugs off our streets."

"I commend the excellent work by agents and detectives in this case," said Bridget G. Brennan, special narcotics prosecutor. "We seized a very large quantity of heroin high in the distribution chain. This would have ended up as millions of user-ready packets on the streets of our city."

"NYPD detectives and federal agents, supported by the outstanding work by Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan and her staff, have brought this heroin mill to a grinding halt," said Raymond W. Kelly, New York City police commissioner. "In putting a major drug dealer out of business, they have also saved lives in stopping the violent crime that is never far from narcotics trafficking."

"Over the past few years we have seen an increase in opiate abuse within the New York area. This has been a great concern to law enforcement and our community," said Wilbert L. Plummer, acting special agent in charge of the DEA in New York. "These arrests demonstrate that law enforcement is determined to identify those responsible."

The New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force is comprised of officers of the U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the New York City Police Department, HSI, the New York State Police, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Marshal Service and with assistance from the New York City Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor's Office. The strike force is partially funded by the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which is a federally funded crime fighting initiative.