NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Authorities say three men face charges in a large-scale narcotics operation based out of the Bronx.
Authorities say they seized nearly 40 pounds of what's believed to be heroin and fentanyl as part of the bust. The drugs were stamped with a variety of brand names, including "COVID-19," "Drop Dead," "Straight Up," "Waze," "Thunder Cats" and many more.
Hector Morillo, 46, Jaime Artiles 47, and Freddy Hernandez-Reyes, 44, face charges of operating as a major trafficker and criminal possession of a controlled substance.
Police say the arrests went down on June 11 at two apartments at 1730 Montgomery Avenue in Morris Heights. Authorities say they seized roughly 19 kilos of heroin and fentanyl, with an estimated street value of $5 million. Some drugs were also found hidden in a car.
Morillo also had a bogus Dominican Republic National Investigations ID, according to authorities.
"Our local and federal partners continue to intercept deadly narcotics from harming our communities. This seizure of 40 pounds of heroin and fentanyl has saved lives. The fact that the packagers used 'COVID-19' as a brand name illustrates the callousness of these alleged traffickers, as opioid overdose deaths surged during the pandemic," said Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark.
"These seizures and charges further affirm the NYPD's unwavering commitment to protecting New York City communities and bringing to justice those responsible narcotics trafficking," said Police Commissioner Dermot Shea.
"We are definitely breaking the supply chain, and the people who are operating at this level have some unique connections to have access to this amount of that drug," Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan told CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas.
Brennan says dime bags, officially known as glassines, were found pre-packaged for sale.
"We seized 225,000 filled glassines," Brennan said. "The amount of fentanyl that will kill you are just a few little grains, so it's mixed in."
Seventy-five percent of all drug overdoses in New York are linked to fentanyl that dealers are lacing with other drugs.
"Right now, the danger is that a lot of people don't know," said Hiawatha Collins, with the advocacy group VOCAL-NY. "You could get a Xanax, and if you buy it off the street, it could have been laced with fentanyl."
Collins says a record number of deaths shows how more needs to be done to keep users safe.
"We're at the point now where every five hours, someone is dying of an overdose, but the key word is a preventable overdose," he said.
While it's an ongoing battle about how to cure the demand, authorities are focusing on cutting off the drug supply.
There's an added urgency, authorities say, to arrest those at the top of the distribution network.
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