21 arrested in Craigslist painkiller sales

Travel deals

The Craigslist ad offered black-market Percocet pills for sale but warned potential customers: "No LE please." Meaning: No law enforcement.

As if that made a difference.

A 40-year-old man accused of placing the ad was among 21 people arrested in an attempt by the New York Police Department to make an example out of some of the smallest of small-time drug dealers: students, young professionals and others who clean out the medicine cabinet and then are brazen enough -- and foolish enough -- to offer the pills for up to $20 a pop over the Internet.

"Whether the drug deal occurs on the street corner or on the Internet, it's a crime," Bridget Brennan, special narcotics prosecutor for New York City, said yesterday in a statement announcing the arrests.

Undercover narcotics investigators answered the ads and ended up buying handfuls of powerful prescription painkillers and other pills for a few hundred dollars, typically in broad daylight and in public settings such as coffee shops, Penn Station or Washington Square in Greenwich Village.

Some of the sellers turned out to be run-of-the mill drug dealers also peddling cocaine and heroin, police said. But many were more mainstream: Among them were a New York University graduate student, a financial adviser and a 62-year-old woman who works as a freelance photographer.

The pills came from the sellers' own meds or were stolen from relatives, friends and co-workers, authorities said. Some of the dealers were out to make a quick buck, even though their backgrounds would suggest they didn't need the money.

The undercover investigators began answering Craigslist ads late last year. By the time they were done, they had made 63 buys -- about $19,000 in pills and $10,400 in cocaine.

One ad, placed by a self-described "friendly NYU student," offered "pain and anxiety relief." Just in case there was any confusion, it signed off with "perc roxy." And a smiley face.

A criminal complaint accused Anthony Vargas -- the Manhattan man who politely asked police not to respond to his ad -- of meeting the same undercover officer four times over the summer near Union Square to sell dozens of oxycodone pills.

Vargas, 40, was sentenced to nine months in jail on Wednesday after pleading guilty to criminal sale of a controlled substance, prosecutors said.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Newsday on social media

@Newsday

advertisement | advertise on newsday