A heroin-dealing enterprise that stood out for its brazenness transformed a bustling Long Island corridor into a 24-hour “open air, drug market,” authorities said Tuesday in announcing one of the area’s largest drug takedowns.
Three suppliers — known as “papis” — funneled the drugs to what officials dubbed the “110 Crew,” 15 middlemen who arrived in high-end vehicles, such as Bentleys, Lamborghinis and Maseratis, to Route 110’s parking lots, coffee shops, hotels, restaurants, big-box retailers and other businesses, according to local, state and federal law enforcement officials.
The middlemen raked in $40,000 to $50,000 a week selling heroin by the “bundle” — 10 bags — to 18 lower-level dealers as well as directly to hundreds of other customers daily, authorities said.
“These individuals turned Route 110 into their personal heroin highway,” Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said at a Tuesday news conference in Mineola that was attended by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.
Thirty-six people have been indicted — including a drug counselor, a celebrity radio-and-print correspondent, and a volunteer firefighter — and the hunt is continuing for additional participants in the scheme, authorities said.
Investigators believe some members of the drug ring belong to the Bloods gang, and they said the middlemen were childhood friends who used a North Amityville house as their headquarters.
Singas said dealers operated in the open, counting cash and weighing their products in their vehicles. She compared it to a “well-run business” with dealers working in shifts at prearranged locations, and with the product packaged for distribution as soon as it arrived.
“In law enforcement, we’re used to drug operations operating in the shadows,” the prosecutor said. “This group was unusually flamboyant and overt in their behavior.”
About 300 agents and officers were involved in the “Operation Bundle Up,” so called because drugs were being supplied in high volumes, officials said. Investigators were still tallying up what they seized but so far had taken $50,000; drugs valued at $100,000; guns; and 18 high-end vehicles, including four that had “traps,” secret compartments to hide drugs.
“The level of sophistication, the quantities being distributed, I have not seen in at least 15 years in this department,” said Thomas Krumpter, acting Nassau police commissioner. “This is truly one of the largest distribution rings that we’ve ever seen on Long Island.”
Thirteen alleged dealers have been arraigned, authorities said. Twenty-one more suspects are expected to be arraigned Wednesday as part of a 59-count indictment with charges ranging from operating as a major trafficker to conspiracy.
Elvin Rosario, 27, of Copiague, and Reinardo Adames, 28, of West Babylon, were arraigned as two of the three alleged suppliers. Their attorneys could not be immediately reached Tuesday.
The third alleged supplier was still at large Tuesday night, officials said.
Other defendants included an unidentified celebrity correspondent, who authorities said once worked for radio shock jock Howard Stern and People magazine, and a woman who is seven months pregnant.
The operation stemmed from the Long Island Heroin Task Force, a multiagency partnership that started last summer to battle the opioid epidemic and spike in drug deaths.
Suffolk and Nassau’s top law enforcement officials underscored their collaboration as the key to the bust.
“This case has made this region safer,” said Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini.
Officials said the ring was responsible for one drug death in Suffolk County and at least 20 nonfatal overdoses on Long Island. The massive bust underscored heroin’s continued often lethal grip on Long Island. A record 442 people died of opioid overdoses in 2015 islandwide — up from 403 a year earlier — with heroin, oxycodone and fentanyl responsible for a majority of those deaths, data showed.