THE BRONX — More than 103 pounds of heroin and fentanyl have been seized in an international drug bust that grew out of an investigation in the South Bronx.
A total of 32 people are being indicted as part of Operation Open Market. The defendants are also being sued for $10.5 million, according to the Bronx District Attorney's Office.
The investigation began in February last year when the NYPD's Bronx Gang Squad started looking into the sale of crack cocaine on McClellan Street and Grant Avenue in the borough's Concourse neighborhood.
Brothers Steven "Steve-O" Rivera and Daniel "D-Boy" Rivera were in charge of the organization, and officers quickly figured out that they were running a trafficking network for heroin and cocaine and that people were coming to the neighborhood from out of state to buy drugs, according to the Bronx DA's Office.
The heroin and fentanyl would originate in Honduras and then travel through Mexico to Los Angeles, at which point truck drivers would pick it up and take it to the New York area in tractor-trailers that also carried legal cargo, officials said.
Defendant Jason Alvarez, who runs Celia's Restaurant on Fordham Road with his family, is accused of arranging to have the drugs brought from Honduras to the east coast, officials said.
Officers seized 10 kilograms of fentanyl and 12 kilograms of heroin in The Bronx from defendant Mariano Guzman in June and they seized one kilogram of fentanyl from defendant Hector Taveras on Dec. 27, according to the DA's Office.
Investigators then learned that two truck drivers would pick up shipments in mid-January in Los Angeles, one of which arrived in The Bronx on Saturday with 10 kilos of heroin in a wheel well, officials said.
Officers with the NYPD and Drug Enforcement Administration began carrying out search warrants and arresting the defendants on Tuesday, confiscating more than $50,000 and three Mercedes Benz cars in the process, according to the DA's Office.
The indictment against the defendants contains 72 counts, with charges including conspiracy, criminal sale of a controlled substance and operating as a major trafficker which could lead to a sentence of life in prison. So far, 26 defendants have been arrested.
The Bronx had the highest rate of deaths from heroin overdoses throughout New York City in 2015, according to the Department of Health, and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said she had heard stories about this problem all across the borough.
"I've been to every community board and many other neighborhood associations," she said, "and no matter what age or socioeconomic, racial or ethnic background of the residents, whether they live in private homes or public housing, they tell me of a relative or friend that they lost to overdosing on heroin and other opioids."