The largest seizure of uncut heroin in Suffolk County history came in the form of size-11 bricks resembling inserts for boots, Suffolk officials said Tuesday.
The dozen packages of heroin, wrapped in tape and paper and weighing about 17 pounds total, were nearly pure. Once cut, they would have yielded about 500,000 doses with a street value of between $8 million and $10 million, said Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota.
"A half-million potential chances of a fatal overdose have been avoided," he said at a news conference at his office in Hauppauge.
Abraham Lopez-Perez, 23, of Elizabeth, N.J., and Odir Mora, 30, of Fords, N.J., were arrested July 25 outside Extended Stay America in Melville, officials said.
The two were likely employed by high-level dealers to pick up the drugs from couriers, said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Joseph Evans of the Drug Enforcement Agency.
"From what we know, they certainly weren't the mules," he said. "They were the guys responsible for getting it into the hands of local distributors."
Officials revealed little about the investigation, only saying that intelligence led law enforcement to the men.
Although the sole-shaped packages appeared to be designed for transport inside footwear, they were not found in shoes. The bricks were found with the men in a cardboard box marked "Avon."
The uncut heroin was likely destined for a mill, where it would be ground, mixed with additives and packaged. The amount seized could have been readied for sale "in a couple of days," Evans said.
The packaging suggested that it probably crossed the border in a commercial shipment or was carried by individuals; the size suggested it was probably not intended for distribution on Long Island alone, Evans said.
Lopez-Perez and Mora pleaded not guilty at arraignments July 26 and were held on $300,000 cash bail each. The judge ordered that if either posted bail, the source of the bail money would be reviewed in court, according to district attorney spokesman Robert Clifford.
A grand jury handed up a felony indictment Monday. The two are to be arraigned on a charge of criminal possession of a controlled substance in a Riverhead court Thursday.
If convicted, the men face a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life. They remained at the Riverhead jail Tuesday.
Mora's attorney, Mary Peláez of Central Islip, said she has had limited contact with her client. "He maintains his innocence," she said. Lopez-Perez was represented by a Legal Aid attorney at his arraignment; it was unclear Tuesday if he had other representation.
Lopez-Perez is from Mexico, while Mora is from Costa Rica, officials said. Both men are in the country illegally. Suffolk assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Creighton said neither has been arrested in the United States before.