A federal inmate who authorities say used a smuggled cell phone behind bars to broker big-money heroin deals between Mexican organized crime and the MS-13 gang pleaded not guilty Thursday to drug trafficking and conspiracy charges at a Mineola court arraignment.
Law enforcement officials accused Daniel Rivera Diaz, 34, of Yakima, Washington, of being a major heroin supplier for the MS-13 gang in the northeastern United States, alleging he arranged at least two multi-kilogram heroin deals for MS-13's alleged East Coast leader.
The Nassau County Court arraignment of Rivera Diaz, also known as JD Primo, followed his inclusion in a January indictment that charged 17 alleged MS-13 members and associates with numerous felonies. The indictment followed a joint law enforcement investigation by the Nassau district attorney's office, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and other agencies.
Prosecutors said Rivera Diaz is facing up to 25 years to life in New York state prison if convicted of operating as a major drug trafficker, the top count against him. He's also charged with two counts of second-degree conspiracy.
Rivera Diaz's attorney, Christopher Graziano, said Thursday he would investigate the allegations against his client, and hadn't yet discussed the charges in detail with him. He said he believes Rivera Diaz is a Mexican national.
Rivera Diaz has nine months of incarceration left on a 13-year federal prison sentence he currently is serving in Mississippi following a drug-related conviction, according to the Mineola defense lawyer.
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement Thursday that Rivera Diaz is alleged to have "facilitated the distribution of deadly heroin up and down the East Coast."
Authorities say that while locked up in Adams County Correctional Center in Natchez, Mississippi, Rivera Diaz arranged to supply alleged MS-13 East Coast leader Miguel Angel Corea Diaz with heroin from the Mexican mafia.
Authorities have alleged that Corea Diaz, 36, an El Salvadoran who is jailed in Nassau County after pleading not guilty to the same charges and other criminal counts, then trafficked the heroin with others on Long Island, in New York City, in Baltimore, in Long Branch, New Jersey, and in Texas.
Authorities said Acting State Supreme Court Justice William O'Brien set Rivera Diaz's bond at $300,000 on Thursday, and the defendant's attorney said his client remains in federal custody following his arraignment.