NEW YORK — The leader and four members of a sophisticated criminal organization that trafficked large quantities of cocaine and oxycodone were indicted and arrested today. This event stems from an investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Strike Force, comprised of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the New York City Police Department (NYPD), the New York State Police, the U. S. Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, the New York National Guard, the Office of Foreign Asset Control and the New York Department of Taxation and Finance.
The group smuggled cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York City via the U.S. Postal Service.
Court authorized searches were conducted at two Bronx day care centers during the course of the investigation – one today and another in September 2013. The long-term wiretap investigation was conducted by the DEA's New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
This morning, ring leader Juan Valdez was arrested at a family member's home at 308 East 184th Street, Bronx, which houses a day care center called Sweet Home. Approximately $7,500 cash was seized from a bedroom in the residence where Valdez was staying. An indictment filed by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor charges Valdez with conspiracy, the possession and sale of controlled substances, weapons possession, money laundering, and other crimes. Also arrested today were Juan Bernal and Ada Padilla.
On Sept. 11, 2013, agents and detectives searched 1499 Rosedale Avenue in the Bronx, the residence of Gregorio Hanley and his wife Johanna Vasquez, which housed the day care center Fun World Childcare. The investigation revealed that Fun World Childcare served as a cover for the drug organization. Agents and detectives seized narcotics and cash from the location. Hanley and Vasquez were arrested and charged at that time. Today's indictment supersedes these charges and adds charges against the three defendants arrested today.
The wiretap investigation revealed that Valdez oversaw the day to day activities of the lucrative narcotics operation based in New York City and Puerto Rico, with assistance from Bernal and Hanley. As charged in the indictment, Valdez, Bernal and Hanley together conspired to possess and sell cocaine and oxycodone. During the investigation, Valdez frequently travelled between New York City and Puerto Rico.
Valdez employed a circle of individuals, who assisted him in the criminal scheme. Couriers travelled by plane from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to San Juan, carrying suitcases full of cash to pay for narcotics. Bernal, a professional livery cab driver, coordinated shipments of cocaine, drove couriers to and from the airport, and transported narcotics and drug proceeds. He served as a liaison between Valdez's drug business associates in New York City and Puerto Rico. Since 2009, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has seized packages containing 23 kilograms of cocaine (over 50 lbs.) worth approximately $1.4 million linked to Valdez's organization.
Charges in the current indictment relate to nearly $300,000 in narcotics seized from the drug ring since August 2013, including 4 kilograms of cocaine (nearly 9 lbs.) and 1,000 pills of oxycodone. Authorities also recovered approximately $400,000 in criminal proceeds and a firearm during the course of the investigation.
The investigation was led by the DEA's New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The DEA's New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force is comprised of agents and officers of the U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the NYPD, ICE HSI, the New York State Police, the U. S. Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, the New York National Guard, the Office of Foreign Asset Control and the New York Department of Taxation and Finance. The Strike Force is partially funded by the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).
Cocaine Smuggled via U.S. Mail in SpongeBob bedding
Packages of cocaine were sent via the U.S. Postal Service from San Juan to individuals in New York City. The narcotics were sometimes concealed in items designed for children. Investigators believe Valdez's group smuggled between 5 and 10 kilograms of cocaine into New York City each month, with each kilogram carrying an estimated street value of $60,000. Valdez's home at 377 North Broadway in Yonkers, served as one of several stash locations used by the drug ring.
Ada Padilla was allegedly hired by Valdez to receive narcotics at her Bronx home. The indictment charges a conspiracy that spans four months from Aug. 19, 2013 to Dec. 10, 2013 and details events leading up to the seizure of a shipment of cocaine by U.S. Postal inspectors on Dec. 3, 2013. This package was addressed to Padilla.
In setting up the shipment, Valdez sent a text on Nov. 26, 2013 that contained the name "Ada Padilla," followed by a Bronx address. That day a package was sent express mail via the U.S. Postal Service to Padilla at 675 East 140th St., Apt. 1CC in the Bronx. Upon seizing the package on Dec. 3, 2013, U.S. Postal inspectors discovered a kilogram of cocaine (over 2 lbs.) wrapped in SpongeBob SquarePants bedding.
Search of Stash Locations: Fun World Childcare, September 2013
Hanley is alleged to have served as a top manager and distributor, and helped oversee the New York City end of the organization when Valdez was travelling. Until September 2013, Valdez and Hanley used Hanley's home at 1499 Rosedale Avenue in the Bronx as a stash location for narcotics and cash. Fun World Childcare, which was housed in the residence, was operated by and licensed to Hanley's wife Johanna Vasquez. Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement agents and detectives observed Hanley selling narcotics at the residence on numerous occasions.
On Sept. 11, 2013, agents and detectives with the DEA's Strike Force conducted a court authorized search of 1499 Rosedale Avenue and seized more than $80,000 in narcotics, including a kilogram of cocaine (over 2 lbs.) and approximately 1,000 pills of oxycodone, as well as $15,250 cash.
During the search, agents and officers found that Fun World Childcare adjoined a residential area on the main floor of the house occupied by Hanley, Vasquez and their two young sons. Inside a kitchen cabinet in the residential area occupied by Hanley and Vasquez, agents and detectives found $15,250 cash.
A door from the main apartment led down to a basement apartment, where agents and officers found more than $80,000 in narcotics, including a kilogram of cocaine (over 2 lbs.), approximately 1,000 pills of oxycodone and 150 grams of crack-cocaine, as well as drug packaging materials and paraphernalia. Approximately 300 grams of the cocaine was concealed inside a child's insulated lunch bag hidden in a refrigerator. This basement apartment opened onto an outdoor play yard connected to the childcare center.
At the time of his arrest, Hanley possessed keys to a second location across the street, 1502 Rosedale Avenue, which also served as a stash house for Valdez's drug organization. In a court authorized search, agents and officers uncovered a hidden compartment in a TV stand, which contained $158,000 in cash, a loaded 9mm handgun, drug packaging materials and a money counter.
On Dec. 9, 2013, agents and detectives conducted a court authorized search of Bernal's residence at 430 Bolton Avenue in the Bronx and seized approximately $26,500 in alleged drug proceeds.
Valdez, Bernal and Padilla are expected to be arraigned this afternoon before Judge James Burke in Manhattan Supreme Court.
"This organization reached an all-time low by using a day care center as a front to conceal their thriving drug dealing enterprise," said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York. "The arrests today serve to make New York City safer for everyone."
"These arrests end a brazen conspiracy that pumped narcotics worth millions onto New York City's streets. Even after highly publicized arrests in September, the narcotics trafficking continued unabated," said Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan. "Tireless work by investigators tracked the organization leaders and resulted in arrests announced today."
"After last year's arrests associated with a drug trafficking organization operating out of a Bronx day care center, New York City's drug law enforcement did not close the case file, but pursued the investigation that led to identifying the mastermind behind the conspiracy. Juan Valdez watched from afar as his co-conspirators got arrested last summer, and continued his illegal distribution not knowing law enforcement was on his tail," said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt. "Today's announcement marks the final arrests of those who abused the rights of the children, parents and community members who paid for and deserved to attend a safe haven free from drug trafficking and the violence associated."
"Day care centers are considered safe houses not stash houses, which is what these drug dealers used to traffic and store illegal narcotics," said NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton. "Thanks to the efforts of the investigators in this case, the leaders of this sophisticated drug smuggling operation have been brought to justice."
"The arrests announced today are the result of the successful partnership with members of the New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force. It is through that partnership that we continue to hold accountable those who seek to profit from dealing illegal and dangerous drugs in our neighborhoods," said New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D'Amico. "In this particular case, dealers hid behind a child day care center to conduct their illegal activity proving the lengths at which they will go to peddle their products."
"The defendants' use of the day care center to conceal their alleged criminal drug enterprise is despicable. They placed the health and safety of children enrolled at the center in jeopardy," said Philip R. Bartlett, inspector in charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. "The United States Postal Inspection Service has zero tolerance for this type of criminal conduct."