NEW YORK — Federal agents arrested two men and seized $2 million dollars in cash and 71 kilos of heroin, Friday. The arrests and seizures follow a yearlong investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) El Dorado Task Force, and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Drug Enforcement Task Force.
Jose A. Mercedes, 46, aka Hippie of Yonkers, New York, and Yenci Cruz Francisco, 19, of the Bronx, New York are accused of operating as a major trafficker and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree.
A court authorized wiretap revealed that Mercedes and his drug trafficking group received sizable shipments of heroin at least once a month from suppliers in Culican, Mexico, an area controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel. The organization is believed to have served as a main source of heroin for customers throughout the five boroughs, as well as Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
HSI New York’s El Dorado Task Force and the DEA intercepted phone conversations suggesting the organization was expecting to deliver a large load of heroin to a stash house in the Bronx, New York. Special agents conducted court authorized searches and recovered $2 million from underneath the floorboards of one apartment, and a .380 caliber firearm in another. The search of a vehicle revealed 70 kilograms (154 lbs.) of heroin.
“The $50 million street value of the heroin in this case is a conservative estimate. To put it in perspective, 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 Bridget G. Brennan, special narcotics prosecutor for the State of New York. “While this important seizure stopped a huge amount of heroin from flooding our city, it also highlights the critical need to intercept heroin before it ever reaches our region.”
“Seventy kilograms of heroin was intended to be distributed throughout the Northeast, proving that NYC is the bull's eye for drug traffickers and heroin is their weapon,” said James J. Hunt, special agent in charge DEA New York. “Record breaking aside, this investigation and seizure are messages to our communities that DEA and our law enforcement partners are doing our part in fighting opioid addiction that is plaguing our nation, by seizing the heroin that drug traffickers are pushing into our city.”
“I want to thank the investigators of the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force and the prosecutors of the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor whose work resulted in this significant heroin seizure,” said William J. Bratton, commissioner New York Police Department. “The NYPD will continue to collaborate with our law enforcement partners to stop this dangerous and highly addictive drug from being sold in our neighborhoods and destroying lives.”
“This case will have a significant impact on the drug trade in New York State and throughout the Northeast, by keeping this large load of heroin out of our communities,” said New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D'Amico. “The State Police remain committed to working with our partners in law enforcement and using every resource available to shut these drug operations down. We continue to send a clear message to those dealing these dangerous and deadly drugs -- you will be found, you will be prosecuted and you will go to prison.”
On Nov. 17, 2014, the state charged two additional members of the narcotics trafficking group, Mercedes’ son, Jose Mercedes, Jr. and defendant Juan Infante. HSI and the DEA special agents seized another 10 kilograms of heroin (22 lbs.) hidden in a compartment inside a wall. Both face criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree and two counts each of criminally using drug paraphernalia in the second degree.