The ringleader orchestrated a drug trafficking empire that spanned from New York and Massachusetts to North Carolina, Florida and Puerto Rico — all from inside a federal prison using a smuggled cellphone, authorities said.
That ring has been taken down with the indictment of 14 alleged traffickers based in Queens, the Bronx, North Carolina, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Federal Correctional Institution in Miami, State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York State Police Superintendent George Beach announced Wednesday.
Dubbed Operation Jailhouse Rock, the yearlong investigation culminated with the indictments and the seizure of more than 20 kilos — about 44 pounds — of heroin and cocaine, authorities said. The street value of the narcotics seized was about $1.53 million, according to Schneiderman.
“This bust should send a clear message to dealers and traffickers that we will not tolerate drug kingpins brazenly trafficking narcotics into our state,” Schneiderman said in a statement, pledging to use “every tool” available to “root out criminal drug operations” to “get dangerous narcotics” off New York streets.
The indictment, unsealed Wednesday in Bronx County Supreme Court, detailed what authorities called “a sophisticated distribution ring” that moved cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York and other states at the direction of ringleader Angel Melendez Orsini, 36, who they said “directed traffic via a contraband cellphone” while serving the remaining 10 years of a 12-year trafficking sentence at the federal prison in Miami.
Authorities said other shipments were sent via “mail hidden in boxing equipment and statues of Santa Maria” to locations in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Heroin was transported in hidden compartments, so-called “traps,” in vehicles.
The investigation utilized confidential informants, wiretaps, surveillance and what authorities called the “strategic interceptions of narcotics” carried out before their ultimate delivery destinations.
In the wiretaps, the defendants “can allegedly be heard discussing methods of transportation, packaging, and tracking numbers and recipient names and addresses for shipments,” authorities said. Other “intercepted conversations” detail how the cocaine was to be “cooked” into crack — and what “the quality of the heroin” might be once ingested.
Authorities said those charged as major traffickers face a maximum of life in prison. The remainder of those indicted face as much as 20 years in prison, authorities said.