Feb. 10, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
A group of Queens residents were arrested in a major drug bust in Ridgewood Monday – where authorities seized $12 million worth of heroin, 1,000 fentanyl pills and $200,000 cash.
The suspects were nabbed by police after authorities raided an apartment located at 63-16 Forest Ave., which was being used as a narcotics packaging mill, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Luis Martinez, 48, is accused of being the ringleader of the group and has been charged with operating as a major drug trafficker and other narcotics-related charges.
Three women, allegedly employed by Martinez, were also arrested in the raid and were charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance and criminally using drug paraphernalia, prosecutors said.
“These defendants are accused of setting up a cottage industry to repackage and peddle millions of dollars’ worth of heroin, oxycodone and fentanyl,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said.
According to the charges, Martinez was spotted leaving the apartment building with a backpack on Feb. 8 at around 4 p.m. by members of the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force Group T-21 and the Special Narcotics Prosecutor Investigators Unit.
Martinez was stopped by authorities as he walked down the block. They searched the bag and allegedly found around $200,000 cash inside. Martinez was also carrying four cellphones and keys to an apartment inside the Forest Avenue building, prosecutors said.
Authorities then raided the apartment and discovered three women inside – two of whom were hiding inside a bathroom.
A bedroom had been set up for packaging heroin, according to court documents, and authorities found 31 brick-shaped packages wrapped in duct tape on top of a table. Each package allegedly contained one kilogram of heroin.
An additional six kilograms of loose powder was also found inside plastic containers and zip-lock style bags.
Authorities also seized around 100,000 individual dose glassine envelopes that were each filled with heroin. The envelopes had various brand names stamped on them including “Red Scorpion,” “The Hulk,” “Universal,” “Hard Target,” “Last Dragon,” “Dope” and “Venom.”
In total, 39 kilograms of suspected heroin was seized with an estimated street value of around $12 million. Police also recovered an array of drug paraphernalia, including heroin processing equipment such as digital scales, sifters and grinders.
Around 1,000 blue pills, which bore markings similar to the pharmaceutically produced drug oxycodone, were also seized. Authorities believe the pills are counterfeits that contain fentanyl.
The four defendants were arraigned Wednesday night in Manhattan Criminal Court. The three female suspects are Sofia Medina, 50, Maria Altagracia Berroa, 54, and Jacqueline Sosa De Espinal, 43.
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said that the volume of lethal drugs flooding the city is causing a record number of overdose deaths.
“The shuttering of an assembly line able to pump out millions of street-ready heroin packages and deadly counterfeit fentanyl pills will save lives across New York City and our entire region,” Brennan said.