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Two cuffed for alleged roles in drug smuggling ring in New York, one remains at large

Part of the $1.3 million seized in enforcement operation.
Photo courtesy of the Department of Justice

Two men were arrested and another is at large for their alleged roles in a drug trafficking conspiracy in New York City, officials say.

Adriano Rodriguez-Diaz, 41, Ironellys Paulino-Nolasco, 37, and Robert Nunez, 50, are charged with conspiring to import at least five kilograms of cocaine into the United States and conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine. Rodriguez-Diaz is also charged with possession of a firearm during and in relation to the narcotics importation and trafficking conspiracies.

“This investigation has yielded the seizure of over 120 kilograms of cocaine and over $1 million in suspected proceeds from illegal narcotics trafficking, disrupting the operation of this alleged drug trafficking organization,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss. “Thanks to our partners at the DEA, this massive shipment of potentially deadly narcotics has been kept off the streets.”

Starting around late 2020, the DEA has been investigating the importation and distribution of narcotics through a produce warehouse in New Jersey called “Sweet Produce” (the “warehouse”). It was believed that cocaine was shipped from a company in the Dominican Republic to the warehouse.

Between March 9-12 2021, DEA agents allegedly observed members of the conspiracy receive and move shipments from the Warehouse to other locations, including an apartment in the Bronx.

On March 10, DEA agents seized approximately one kilogram of cocaine from a car driven by Nunez — according to the criminal complaint, Nunez allegedly possessed a controlled substance. Law enforcement agents allegedly found approximately 14 hard-cased hollow cylinders packaged inside blue carbon paper with gold or yellow writing inside a bag in the car.

Law enforcement agents later opened one of the cylinders and found a powdery white substance that field-tested for the presence of cocaine. Nunez was arrested but later released.

Photo courtesy of the Department of Justice

On March 11, 2021, agents allegedly seized approximately 20 kilograms of cocaine and $1.3 million in United States currency from the apartment in the Bronx. The next day, agents seized approximately 100 kilograms of cocaine from a produce van as it left the Warehouse, and also seized a firearm from the warehouse. According to the complaint, the van was en route to a safe house in New Jersey that contained approximately one kilogram of cocaine, a cocaine press, and packaging materials.

Rodriguez-Diaz and Paulino-Nolasco were apprehended on March 12, 2021 — Nunez is still at large.

“A stakeout turned into a three-day enforcement operation taking six million dollars’ worth of cocaine sales away from alleged drug traffickers while saving lives,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Raymond P. Donovan. “Over one hundred kilograms of cocaine is significant in many ways since CDC warned of a 26.5% increase in overdose deaths involving cocaine in a 12- month period ending May 2020. Law enforcement will continue to rally our resources to seize illegal drugs responsible for record-breaking overdose rates.”

If convicted, Rodriguez-Diaz, Paulino-Nolasco and Nunez face a mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison for both drug charges. Rodriguez-Diaz also faces an additional mandatory consecutive sentence of five years in prison for the firearm charge.

Cocaine-filled cylinders and cash seized from Bronx residence during search warrant.Photo courtesy of the Department of Justice
100 kilograms of cocaine seized from produce van.Photo courtesy of the Department of Justice

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