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Cops: 15 pounds of pot mailed to unknowing patients

Michael Gonzalez of Howard Beach was arrested after

Michael Gonzalez of Howard Beach was arrested after two “large shipments” of marijuana were sent in the name of two patients at a health facility where he worked, police said. (April 9, 2013) Credit: Long Beach PD

He sent shipments of marijuana to the health care facility where he worked using the names of patients, Long Beach police said. Now, after an undercover operation conducted with U.S. Postal Service inspectors, a Queens man is under arrest -- charged with first-degree criminal possession of marijuana.

Police said Michael Gonzalez of Howard Beach was arrested after two "large shipments" of marijuana were sent to the facility. The facility's name and location are not being released to protect the identity of the patients involved, police said.

Police said more than 15 pounds of marijuana were recovered during the operation.

Gonzalez was scheduled for arraignment Wednesday in Long Beach City Court.

It was not clear when or where he was arrested.

Police said patients were "completely unaware that their names were being used to have these packages sent" and that, upon delivery, Gonzalez retrieved the packages and hid them in a storage area.

Police said management and staff at the facility were "extremely cooperative" with detectives during the investigation. That investigation is ongoing, police said.

"This type of scheme is common throughout the country," Det. Lt. Stefan Chernaski, commanding officer of the Long Beach Detective Division, who supervised the operation, said in a statement.

"The marijuana is wrapped in a certain way to attempt to avoid detection and the listed addressee is usually completely unaware that a package was shipped in their name," Chernaski said, adding: "This particular case was more egregious because a health care facility and two unsuspecting elderly people were used."

Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney said: "Often these types of cases emerge quickly and there is a very brief window in which to act. Our detectives, including the Narcotics Task Force, mobilized quickly to work with the postal inspectors. They put together a somewhat complex undercover investigation very quickly . . . and made the arrest. It was top-notch police work."

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