The pipeline trafficked in several million dollars’ worth of heroin in the New York area, as well as cocaine, MDMA (a/k/a ecstasy or molly) and anabolic steroids sold via Craigslist.
Nine defendants from Mexico, California, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens have been indicted and arrested as part an ongoing investigation.
Investigators tracked the source of heroin being sold by two defendants in Nassau back to a drug pipeline centered around Bronx resident Cesar Romero-Astudillo, also known as “Menor.” Romero-Astudillo led a drug trafficking network that funneled narcotics by vehicles driven from Mexico and inside “mules” flying from California – all destined for New York City and Long Island to fuel a deepening epidemic of heroin.
“This case proves that the battle lines in our fight to save lives in the midst of a devastating heroin epidemic don’t end at any border. We tracked the supply of narcotics entering our region from the source, and in the process, dismantled a drug trafficking network that stretched from Mexico to New York,” DA Rice said. “This case sends a strong message that those who profit from a drug trade causing misery and death for so many will be held accountable at every level of our criminal justice system. I want to thank the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, the Drug Enforcement Task Force, and the Nassau County Police Department for their diligent efforts to help bring these defendants to justice.”
New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said, “Staunching the deluge of heroin flowing to the New York area from Mexico will require an all hands on effort by local, state and federal law enforcement. This case is an example of successful collaboration. The leadership of Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice is greatly appreciated.”
DEA Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt said, “The nation is being besieged by heroin – over a two year period U.S. heroin overdose deaths have more than doubled. Like rubbing salt in the wound, Cesar Romero Astudillo’s drug crew pushed heroin throughout the streets of NYC and Nassau County feeding heroin abuse in our communities. This announcement exemplifies drug law enforcement’s efforts to identify and arrest those responsible at all levels of the distribution chain.”
Jose Zambrano, 38, of Astoria, and Miguel Tormo, 42, of Astoria, face Nassau County grand jury charges of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the 1st Degree (an A-I felony) and Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the 3rd Degree (a B felony). Carter was also charged with additional counts of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the 1st Degree and Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the 3rd Degree.
Nassau County Court Judge Teresa Corrigan set bail for Carter and Tormo at $5 million bond or $2.5 million cash. If convicted of the top charges, Carter faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and Tormo faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. They were due back in court on Jan. 8, 2015.
The following individuals, being prosecuted by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor of New York, were also arrested and indicted:
• Cesar Romero-Astudillo a/k/a “Menor,” 24, of the Bronx
• Luis Alberto Mendoza Rosas a/k/a “Panzon,” 34, of the Bronx
• Carlos Reyes a/k/a “Chingon” a/k/a “Poncho,” 39, of the Bronx
• Santiago Juela, 33, of Brooklyn
• Vincent Belmontes, 24, of Riverside, Calif.
• Defendant No. 8, age 57, of Chula Vista, Calif. (not yet arraigned)
• Defendant No. 9, age 21, of Los Mochis, Mexico (not yet arraigned)