The ringleader orchestrated a cocaine trafficking empire that spanned from New York and Massachusetts to North Carolina, Florida and Puerto Rico — all, from inside a federal prison using a smuggled cellphone, authorities said.
That ring has been taken down with the indictment of 14 alleged traffickers based in Queens, the Bronx, North Carolina, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Federal Correctional Institution in Miami, State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York State Police Superintendent George Beach announced Wednesday.
Dubbed Operation Jailhouse Rock, the yearlong investigation culminated with the indictments and the seizure of more than 20 kilos — about 44 pounds — of heroin and cocaine, authorities said. The street value of the narcotics seized was about $1.53 million, according to Schneiderman.
“This bust should send a clear message to dealers and traffickers that we will not tolerate drug kingpins brazenly trafficking narcotics into our state,” Schneiderman said in a statement, pledging to use “every tool” available to “root out criminal drug operations” to “get dangerous narcotics” off New York streets.
The indictment, unsealed Wednesday in Bronx County Supreme Court, detailed what authorities called “a sophisticated distribution ring” that moved cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York and other states at the direction of ringleader Angel Melendez Orsini, 36, who they said “directed traffic via a contraband cellphone” while serving the remaining 10 years of a 12-year trafficking sentence at the federal prison in Miami.
Authorities said other shipments were sent via “mail hidden in boxing equipment and statues of Santa Maria” to locations in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Heroin was transported in hidden compartments, so-called “traps,” in vehicles.
The investigation utilized confidential informants, wiretaps, surveillance and what authorities called the “strategic interceptions of narcotics” carried out before their ultimate delivery destinations.
In the wiretaps, the defendants “can allegedly be heard discussing methods of transportation, packaging, and tracking numbers and recipient names and addresses for shipments,”, authorities said. Other “intercepted conversations” detail how the cocaine was to be “cooked” into crack — and what “the quality of the heroin” might be once ingested.
Indicted as “major traffickers” in addition to Orsini were Francisco Vega Vasquez, 51, of Caguas, Puerto Rico; Francisco Vega Cancel, 26, of Cidra, Puerto Rico; Juan Rodriguez, 50, of the Bronx; Edwin Vega, 40, of the Bronx; and Juan Santiago Garcia, 38, of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Others indicted Wednesday include Mayolo Toxqui, 38, of the Bronx; William Estrada, 37, of the Bronx; Juan Javier Rivera, 38, of Winter Haven, Florida; Wilber Marquez Torres, 31, of Richmond Hill, Queens; Ramon Amaro, 46, of the Bronx; Jamille Nelly Nieves, 42, of Carolina, Puerto Rico; George Suggs, 54, of the Bronx; and, Victor Holloway, 53, of Kinston, North Carolina.
Authorities said those charged as major traffickers face a maximum of life in prison. The remainder of those indicted face as much as 20 years in prison, authorities said.
Other agencies involved in the investigation included: The Organized Crime Task Force, the State Police Special Investigations Unit, the Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Postal Inspectors, the Army Air National Guard, Virginia State Police, officials at the Federal Correctional Institution in Miami, the Orange County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, the NYPD and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.