Police find $2.4 million in drugs in a semi truck, arrest 11 in major long haul drug ring

New York police have arrested 11 in people who they say were conspiring to transport truckloads of deadly drugs across the country.

On November 7, the District Attorney of Queens County announced that following a two year investigation, 11 people had been arrested and variously charged with drug trafficking, conspiracy, criminal possession of a controlled substance and other crimes.

The District Attorney’s Office describes the scheme:

According to the charges, between July 2018 and September 2019, defendant [Giovanny] Arias with his co-defendants operated a nationwide drug enterprise utilizing long-haul truck drivers – defendants Mauricio Arevalo and Alexis Victorero – who allegedly transported drugs from the southern border of California to New York City, including Queens County. The tractor trailers allegedly hauled heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and carfentanil, a drug known to be 100 times deadlier than fentanyl.

Continuing, according to the indictment, said Acting DA Ryan, on July 21, 2018, Arias allegedly directed defendant John Pareja to make a pick up on the 22nd from a truck stop in New Jersey. Pareja was followed from that truck depot and stopped on the Van Wyck Expressway service road at Jewel Avenue later that day. Law enforcement executed a court-authorized search warrant for the vehicle Pareja was driving and police allegedly recovered 37 pounds of fentanyl, along with just over 2 pounds of Ketamine that was concealed in a hidden compartment in the floor under the front passenger seat. On October 29, 2018, defendant Arias is alleged to have directed co-defendant Victor Salazar to pick up 35 pounds of cocaine and more than 4 pounds of heroin from another rest stop in New Jersey. Salazar was stopped by police afterwards in Astoria, Queens, and allegedly recovered the drugs hidden in a mini-bar refrigerator box in the back seat of the car.

Acting DA Ryan added that, according to the indictment, on April 17. 2019, in a movie theater parking lot in Linden, New Jersey, defendant Arevalo delivered a black duffle bag from the cab of his truck to co-defendant Esther Riano-Lopez, who took the bag to a stash-house in Springfield Gardens, Queens, where Arias’s associates – defendants Carlos Hidalgo and Armando de Jesus Moreno-Perez – were allegedly waiting to receive the drugs. At that time, Arias allegedly directed another co-defendant Hector Maren to come to the Queens stash-house to cut and repackage the narcotics.

According to the charges, on April 18, 2019, members of the NYPD’s Major Case Squad executed a court-authorized search warrant for the stash-house and allegedly recovered the black duffle bag along with 10 cylindrically-shaped packages containing a total of 11 pounds of a combination of carfentanil and fentanyl. Law enforcement also allegedly recovered 1 kilogram brick (about 2 pounds) of fentanyl, which was stamped with the logo of the UAE, Abu Dhabi Police Department and the words “good quality” in Arabic. A digital scale, plastic heat sealer and over a pound of a cutting agent were also found.

On September 25, 2019, according to the charges said Acting DA Ryan, Arias is alleged to have directed another long-haul truck driver, Alexis Victorero, to deliver a drug shipment from California to the New York area. Working in cooperation with the Clarkstown Police Department, defendant Victorero’s truck was stopped by police just before hitting the Tappan Zee/Mario Cuomo Bridge, in Nyack, New York. A police K-9 searched the truck’s cab and allegedly recovered over 28 pounds of cocaine, more than 2 pounds of a mixture of fentanyl and tramadol, over 2 pounds of heroin and over 1,500 counterfeit oxycodon pills containing fentanyl.

Clarkstown Police, who assisted in Victorero’s arrest, say that the drugs discovered in his truck were worth an estimated total of $2.4 million. He has been charged with first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and is being held on $250,000 bond.

Acting District Attorney Ryan said, “The main defendant in this case operated a complicated illegal network of dealers and traffickers, who pumped deadly drugs which continue to contribute to the opioid epidemic in our communities. Although it is commonly known that this epidemic is fueled by the rise in fentanyl trafficking, the main defendant and his associates are also charged with trafficking carfentanil, another synthetic opioid – 100 times more potent than fentanyl. The seizure of 11 pounds of carfentail from these defendants represents the largest seizure of its kind and has certainly resulted in saving lives. This long-term investigation has dismantled this drug peddling crew and also resulted in taking deadly drugs and firearms off our streets. I want to commend the members of the NYPD Major Case Squad for their hard work on this investigation. This office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to stop criminals in their tracks and to keep our communities safe.”