Federal drug enforcement officials have charged five people in a scheme to ship 1,300 pounds of methamphethine from Long Island to other tristate locations by smuggling the drugs in wax candles, authorities said Wednesday.
Agustin Zamora-Vega, 30, Orlando Alcantara, 33, Cindy Carrillo, 27, Santos Minjarez, 26, and Jose Luis Gonzalez-Solis, 28, were arrested in New Jersey and went before a federal judge in Manhattan on Wednesday.
Alcantara and Zamora-Vega are from Mexico and the remaining three are Fresno, California residents, authorities said. All five are charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 500 grams and more of mixtures and substances containing methamphetamine.
“This seizure signifies that drug trafficking organizations are determined to create a stronghold of meth users in the Northeast,” said James J. Hunt, special agent-in-charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration in a statement.
Hunt credited the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies with assisting the DEA on the investigation into the alleged scheme to smuggle the drugs, which have an estimated street value of at least $1 million.
“This load of methamphetamine was seized before it even hit the streets, thwarting the organization’s plans,” Hunt said.
Authorities said the charges stem from a series of contacts between an undercover officer and Zamora-Vega. Investigators learned Zamora-Vega was looking for a place to store a large quantity of meth. The undercover agent contacted Zamora-Vega and offered him a facility in New Jersey.
According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of New York, Zamora-Vega was looking for a facility to convert the meth into crystal meth. Authorities said Zamora-Vega told the undercover agent that a shipment of meth had arrived Aug. 29 on Long Island.
Authorities wouldn’t comment on where the drugs originated or where on Long Island they were shipped.
“We know that it would have been enough meth that it would have been distributed across the tristate area, including Long Island,” said Erin Mulvey, a DEA spokeswoman
Hunt said using candles to hide the meth went beyond unusual.
“DEA has seen drugs smuggled in numerous ways: concealed in puppies, lollipops, furniture, and produce,” Hunt said. “But secreting a million dollars’ worth of methamphetamine in wax candles of various shapes is shocking.”
The undercover agent traveled with the five suspects to the New Jersey warehouse. There, agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the NYPD and the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations recovered about 27 cardboard boxes of the candles, officials said.
“As creative as these defendants were, allegedly hiding dangerous drugs in a common household item, law enforcement was on top of this newest scheme,” Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said in a statement.