Law enforcement officials said they seized 86 pounds of heroin with a street value of $20 million last week when they searched a small Richmond Hill apartment that was being used by a Manhattan man as a makeshift drug mill.
For several weeks, investigators from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency had been eyeing the studio apartment on 122nd Street, where they said Jose Santiago Diaz had allegedly set up an assembly line with kilo presses, grinders, sifters and other paraphernalia.
DEA agents said they could smell heroin coming out of the air conditioner on the afternoon of Sept. 18 as Diaz ran around the ground-floor apartment wearing latex gloves.
When Diaz, an illegal alien who had previously been deported to the Dominican Republic, drove off in a car shortly after midnight, the officers pulled him over and detained him.
Back at the apartment, drug-sniffing dogs picked up the scent of heroin and officials obtained a search warrant to go through the apartment, according to the city’s special narcotics prosecutor.
It was Wednesday night when they entered and allegedly found eight packages of pressed heroin lying around the floor and another 11 packages inside a duffel bag. Another 10 kilograms of loose heroin was sitting in buckets, officials said.
The DEA said opiate abuse has been on the rise over the past few years in the New York area.
“This has been a great concern to law enforcement and our community. These arrests demonstrate that law enforcement is determined to identify those responsible — especially by locating the distribution centers, stash houses and distribution organizations that supply the tri-state area, which are known as ‘heroin mills,’” said DEA Special Agent Wilbert Plummer.
“DEA and SNP investigators seized 39 kilograms of heroin inside this mill, which equates to producing over $20 million worth of dime bags of heroin that would have been sold on the streets throughout our communities and the Northeast,” Plummer added.
Diaz, who lives in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan, was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance and criminal possession of drug paraphernalia by Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan.
“I commend the excellent work by agents and detectives in this case,” Brennan said. “We seized a very large quantity of heroin high in the distribution chain. This would have ended up as millions of user-ready packets on the streets of our city.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@
©2012 Community News Group
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