Authorities have dismantled a “ruthless” drug-dealing operation linked to 10 fatal overdoses that flooded Long Island with heroin and the synthetic opioid fentanyl, officials said Wednesday.
Twenty-four people were arrested earlier this month on drug possession and conspiracy charges as a result of the bust of the network, which authorities said brought more than 3,000 bags of the narcotics weekly onto the Island from New York City.
The use of fentanyl, mostly produced in unregulated laboratories overseas, made the drugs significantly more potent. They were tied to eight fatal overdoses in Suffolk and two in Nassau in a nine-month period, from September 2015 to May, officials said.
Authorities, including from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, also seized $20,000 in cash, a bulletproof vest and three guns, including an AK-47 assault rifle, from homes on Camp Road in Massapequa, Arthur Avenue in West Babylon, Skidmores Road in Deer Park and in Middle Village, Queens, earlier this month, officials said.
“For the addicts, ... they couldn’t get the euphoric high that they normally would get and many of them were asking for the white stuff, rather than the brown stuff,” said Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota. “Pure white is fentanyl itself.”
Spota said his office planned to explore the possibility of prosecuting some of the suspects on homicide charges in some or all of the fatal overdose cases, citing strong evidence, though he acknowledged state law isn’t on his side.
Last year, Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas proposed state legislation drafted by her office that would, among other things, allow prosecutors to charge dealers with homicide in fatal overdoses.
The so-called “death by dealer” legislation stalled in Albany.
“This is the strongest case that we have seen out here for the possibility, and I want to emphasize the possibility of bringing a homicide charge,” Spota said, citing telephone records and witness statements.
Among those arrested were Roxy A. Headley Jr., 29, of Mastic Beach, who prosecutors said was a major supplier of fentanyl and heroin in the metropolitan area. Headley, who authorities said is a Bloods street gang member, is charged with operating as a major trafficker, second-degree conspiracy and weapons possession. He is being held on $1.5 million bail.
Carlos Torres, 34, of Wyandanch, was Headley’s “primary source” of the drugs. Torres, who was arrested July 18, was charged with operating as a major trafficker and second-degree conspiracy. He is being held on $2.5 million bail.
Their attorneys could not be reached for comment.
The investigation was initiated by the Long Island Heroin Task Force, comprised of Nassau and Suffolk police. The task force began looking into the origins of the heroin and other drugs responsible for overdoses last year.
Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said the case is one of the task force’s first big takedowns.
“The message is clear, if you’re selling this poison in Suffolk County — in this region — we’re coming for you,” he said.
When the task force came to Spota’s office with the evidence, he said: “We decided we would go up on a wire [tap]. Let’s see what this guy Headley is all about.”
A few weeks ago, the wire proved fruitful, officials said, after Headley shot a rival dealer in the leg in Deer Park on July 15, stole the rival’s cellphone, and talked about it, which was picked up on the wire.
The victim drove himself to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and wasn’t cooperative, authorities said. Spota said Headley will be charged with the shooting.