Two men were charged with transporting about 100 pounds of heroin hidden in vehicle parts in Elmhurst on Tuesday evening, officials said.
A team from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force was conducting surveillance near Northern Boulevard and 84th Street in Elmhurst, Queens, when it saw two vehicles — a blue pickup truck and a silver pickup truck towing a hitch trailer — driving in tandem and slowly circling the area at about 8 p.m., State Police said in a news release Thursday.
Both vehicles had North Carolina license plates and one of them was unregistered, officials said.
The officers approached the vehicles at about 8:45 p.m. According to officials, a trained search dog alerted the officers to the presence of controlled substances in one of the vehicles.
The two drivers, Peter Omar Garcia-Romero and Jose Guadencio Lantan-Vela — who are both native to Guatemala — were taken into custody, officials said. Garcia-Romero, 33, resided in North Carolina. Lantan-Vela, 65, came to the United States on a travel visa on Jan. 15.
Heroin was found hidden in “sophisticated concealed compartments” in the axle and drive shaft casings in one of the trucks after they were taken to the DEA’s Manhattan headquarters to be searched, officials said.
“The heroin was pressed into round shapes to fit in the axle casing and packaged in square shapes to fit in the drive shaft,” State Police said.
The black market value of the drugs is at least $14 million, the DEA estimated.
Both Lantan-Vela and Garcia-Romero are being charged with second-degree conspiracy and first- and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, police said.
They were scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Criminal Court in Manhattan before Judge Louis Nock, according to the office of New York City special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan.
In addition to the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force — made up of DEA special agents, NYPD detectives and New York State Police investigators — the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office Special Investigations Bureau, the NYPD Emergency Service Unit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey were also involved in the case.