Fugitive Coke Kingpin Taken Down in Swank Times Square Hotel, Authorities Said
By Tom Liddy
DNAinfo News Editor
TIMES SQUARE - It was high times at the Crossroads of the World.
Narcotics investigators decimated a major Manhattan drug ring that stashed suitcases stuffed with $1.3 million in coke in a swank Times Square hotel after a clubland dealer unwittingly led cops to the big fish, sources said.
The ring sold hundreds of kilos of cocaine every year and operated out of several other high end hotels, sources said. And they allegedly hawked the drugs to club kids and others throughout Manhattan and the other boroughs.
Among the big fish netted in the investigation was Ricardo Gonzalez-Santiago, 36, the alleged kingpin of a Puerto Rican cartel that trafficked in large quantities of cocaine, according to the office of Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan.
"This was a very significant case," Brennan said. "It was critical to dismantle this drug organization in order to interrupt a major source of cocaine to the city."
Gonzalez-Santiago, who was on the lam since eluding the feds in Philadelphia two years ago, was picked up March 25 after he flew into New York to move a major drug shipment, the office said.
Investigators tailed the suspect, who was indicted earlier this month and expected to be arraigned Friday, after he arrived at JFK from Puerto Rico that morning.
After stopping in The Bronx, Gonzalez-Santiago popped into the Paramount Hotel at 235 W. 46th St., near Eighth Avenue and grabbed two suitcases jammed with 79 pounds of cocaine, authorities said.
Detectives then tailed him to W. 45th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues and discovered the coke wrapped in 18 packages covered in carbon paper.
Sources said that investigators believe the blow was flown into the country on a separate plane and ferried to the hotel for Gonzalez-Santiago.
However, when cops arrived at the hotel, the people who brought the drugs there were gone.
The sources also said that despite being a fugitive, Gonzalez-Santiago made several trips to sell drugs each year, bringing about 50 kilos each time.
The alleged drug big, who faces life in prison on the charge of operating as a major drug trafficer, was looking to sell the coke for $32,000 per kilo to a Bronx supplier, Francisco Rivera, who was regularly in touch with members of a Puerto Rican cartel, the authorities said.
The investigation, by the DEA-led New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force, began in July 2010 when NYPD Vice Squad members made a series of ketamine, ecstasy and oxycodone buys from an alleged low-level dealer Angela Como, 21.
Authorities said that Como pushed the drugs at Manhattan hotspots including inside Webster Hall, at 125 E. 11th St., in the East Village, and outside Pacha NYC, at 618 W. 46th St., in Hell's Kitchen.
In May 2009, cops busted up a designer drug ring that pushed the hallucinogenic BZP to kids at Pacha and several other clubs, according to the New York Post.
Como, who allegedly told customers that worked at a pharmacy and stole the pills, led NYPD and Special Narcotics detectives up the chain of coke suppliers to Gonzalez-Santiago.
Rivera allegedly sold to several lower level dealers, including one, Phillip Gonzalez, who was busted on Jan. 11 when he got stuck in a snow bank in Queens while transporting a pound of cocaine.
During the course of the investigation, which included wire taps, cops made 18 buys and seized $315,000.
"This is big," said Erin Mulvey, spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration's New York Field Division, which took part in 10-month sting.
Rivera and four other alleged dealers, including Como were picked up Friday morning and were charged with criminal sale and possesion of a controlled substance.
The others charged are Jose Santana, 20, Gonzalez, 27, Matt Velez, Michael Falcon, 26, Melvin Nieves, 35, Kevin Collins, 27 and Daniel Gradzki, 21, officlals said. All face conspiracy charges.