Massive gun and drug trafficking ring in Manhattan and the Bronx crushed in ‘Operation Iron Empire’

State Attorney General Letitia James joined with State Police and the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force and NY Strike Force to take down a gun and heroin trafficking ring operating in the Bronx and Manhattan. Here she views weapons. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

A gun and drug trafficking ring operating in the Bronx and Manhattan was crushed by a combined law enforcement effort that resulted in seizure of 16 firearms and 250 grams of heroin, officials revealed Thursday.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James was joined at a Feb. 13 press conference by the New York Strike Force and State Police announcing the charges against five people for their alleged roles in gun trafficking and dealing heroin.

The weapon seizures included the recovery of four assault weapons with 11 high capacity ammunition feeding devices and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Cops also confiscated heroin that was destined for the streets of Manhattan and the Bronx.

The five suspects include brothers Luis and Michael Alsina, Miguel Rodriguez, Jose Pagan-Adorno and Rafael Cruz. The Alsina brothers were also charged with selling 250 grams of heroin to undercover officers.

The drug sales occurred on four occasions between Aug. 7, 2019 and Sept. 5, 2019.

State Attorney General Letitia James joined with State Police and the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force and NY Strike Force to take down a gun and heroin trafficking ring operating in the Bronx and Manhattan. Bags of heroin on display. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

The investigation, dubbed “Operation Iron Empire,” included the use of physical surveillance, electronic surveillance, and undercover operations that put officers at great risk, officials say. During the course of the recorded transactions with police, the suspects repeatedly said they were able to obtain guns from Pennsylvania, where gun laws are more lax, and smuggle them to New York City.

“This is an example of our commitment to get the dangerous guns off the streets,” James said, adding that this follows another investigation on Long Island last week that netted investigators 32 firearms including assault weapons and 1000 rounds of ammunition.

“These five individuals allegedly made a business of flooding our communities with dangerous weapons – including assaults weapons and drugs – putting our city in harms way,” she said.

James said most of the weapons are being obtained from states with, “lax firearms laws.” She said that 74 percent of guns used in crimes come from other states and 86 percent of those recovered from crimes are from “lax states.”

Hand guns spread out on table part of those guns seized. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

All of those arrested face from seven years to 25 years in prison for their part in the gun sales. The Alsina brothers face additional 10 years for criminal sale of heroin.

Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clarke said there have already been 23 people shot since Jan. 1 — including two police officers, one on the street and the other in the 41st Precinct stationhouse this past weekend by a crazed gunman.

“We can no longer tolerate illegal firearms on our streets — the gun fire must stop,” Clarke said. “My office has prosecuted many traffickers who bring firearms from out of state but this shows there is more more to be done.”

Bronx DA Darcel Clarke talks about gun violence in her borough. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

James could not say how long the gun ring has been operating. She said the investigation started as a result of a traffic stop in New Jersey, in which assault weapons were found in a car.

One law enforcement official said this was the “tip of the iceberg” and “the business is so lucrative that we think others will take their place.”

Semi automatic weapons were on display. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

These arrests follow the gun running ring busts by the Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez with the NYPD gang units last week and another extensive arrest of gun runners in Manhattan by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and the NYPD gang and detective divisions.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez shows off gun taken from gangs in Brooklyn last week. (Photo by Todd Maisel)
(Left to right) Detective Brian McCloseky, Chief of Detective Rodney Harrison and District Attorney Cyrus Vance show off some of the weapons taken in Operation Stone Cold recently. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

These arrests follow a year in which the murder rate rose for the first time in years along with a rise in shootings, many of those a result of fire arms use, some of which are being used by gangs. Last week, Brooklyn DA Gonzalez revealed many shootings had occurred by the gangs Whoo and Choo, who’s existence was mainly to fight each other.

Over the summer 12 people were shot, one person dead at Old Timers Day in Brownsville, long considered off-limits for violence.

On July 28, Old Timers Day turned into a mass shooting where one man was killed and 11 others wounded in the Brownsville event, a normally peaceful day. Police later made an arrest of a gang member in the shooting. (Photo Todd Maisel)

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