A Long Island man was accused on Wednesday of operating a ring that distributed counterfeit oxycodone pills made with deadly fentanyl, the first arrest by a new federal enforcement team.
Ismail Latif, 32, of Wyandanch, is the first person arrested by the DEA’s Long Island Heroin Task Force Team, created in October to battle the opioid epidemic that killed 600 people in Nassau and Suffolk counties in 2017.
Special Agent Scott J. Knox of the Drug Enforcement Administration said in a complaint unsealed Wednesday in Central Islip federal court that Latif, also known as “Dot,” sold hundreds of fake oxycodone pills to a law-enforcement informant on nine different days between May and July. The pills actually contained an analog of fentanyl, a dangerous painkiller that the federal Centers for Disease Control say is 50 times more potent than heroin. Latif also sold heroin to the informant, Knox said in the court papers.
In a statement, DEA Special Agent in Charge James Hunt said: “The greatest impact in addressing the opioid threat is identifying those traffickers responsible for pushing fentanyl into users’ hands. Overdosing is as easy as popping a pill, especially when drug dealers use fentanyl to mimic less powerful opioids, like oxycodone."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Rose said authorities seized heroin, cocaine, firearms, drug paraphernalia and $60,000 in cash during a raid on Latif’s North 18th Street home. Latif’s drug ring also operated out of a home on Andrews Avenue in Wyandanch and Diana Drive in Mastic Beach, according to court records.
Rose called Latif a career offender and asked U.S. Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson to deny bail during a brief hearing Wednesday afternoon. Latif pleaded guilty to felony drug charges in 2009 and 2016, according to the court papers, and is on parole until April 2019. His criminal record also includes convictions for misdemeanor assault and attempted burglary, also a misdemeanor.
“Latif has a lengthy criminal history, which includes both felonies, drug trafficking offenses and violent crimes,” Knox said in the court papers. If convicted, he faces life in prison.
Tomlinson ordered Latif to be remanded to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. It was not immediately clear when he is to return to court.
A second informant told DEA investigators that he had overdosed in July after buying heroin from Latif, Knox said in the court papers. The informant believes the heroin contained fentanyl.
Sen. Chuck Schumer secured $12.5 million in federal funding for the DEA to set up enforcement teams on Long Island and five other communities across the United States hit hard by the opioid epidemic. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said last year that he expected the money would be used for undercover police operations and drug detection technology,
“The team is going to focus on new ways, with heroin and particularly fentanyl, in terms of stopping it, finding out where it comes from,” Schumer said during an October 2017 interview with Newsday. “It will also give our Long Island police a great hook into the federal government and all its resources.”
Enforcement teams were also created in Charleston, West Virginia; Cincinnati and Cleveland; New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Raleigh, North Carolina.