Press Releases

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Charges Fourteen Individuals With Illegal Prescription Pill Diversion And Distribution In Upper Manhattan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday May 23, 2012

More than 10,000 Prescription Pills Distributed Weekly

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Wilbert L. Plummer, the Acting Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”),  and Raymond Kelly of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), today announced charges against JULIO CESAR GUERRERO BRITO, HECTOR LUIS VARGAS-PAREDES, JONATHAN CRUZ, VIRGILIO ANTONIO DIAZ GARCIANO, RUBEN ALEXANDER SANTIAGO-GUILLERMO, PLINO RAMOS, EWARD DELROSARIO, AGUSTIN CABREA-GERMAN, and ARTURO LARA for conspiring to distribute oxycodone and oxymorphone.  In a second complaint, JENNY GOMEZ, FELIX ABREU, and JOANNA FUERTES are charged with conspiring to distribute oxycodone and oxymorphone, and in a third complaint, WALID ZEYAD ASMAR and HECTOR JIMINEZ are charged with conspiring to distribute oxycodone.  The defendants allegedly participated in the distribution of illegally diverted prescription pills through open-air, hand-to-hand, and car sales on certain blocks in Upper Manhattan.  Multiple defendants also allegedly assisted in transporting these drugs to New England, where they command higher prices on the illegal market.  The oxycodone was distributed in various forms, including what is commonly known as “Percocet,” and the oxymorphone was distributed in a form commonly known as “Opana.”

Of the 14 defendants charged, 10 are currently in custody, one defendant, GOMEZ, is expected to surrender this afternoon, and the three remaining defendants, VARGAS-PAREDES, RAMOS, and JIMINEZ, are at large.  During the execution of search warrants this morning at five locations in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan, DEA agents and NYPD officers recovered approximately 9,000 oxycodone and oxymorphone pills, $25,000 in cash, and hundreds of bottles of HIV medications.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, these 14 defendants operated what was essentially an open-air drug mall and drive-thru on the streets of Upper Manhattan distributing tens of thousands of illegally diverted prescription pills in plain sight. The illegal trafficking of prescription pills is a growing danger nationwide.  In the wrong hands, these pills can have disastrous, or even fatal, consequences, which is exactly why they are regulated.  With today’s arrests, we have broken this supply chain and taken a major step toward cleaning up one of our neighborhoods and bringing to justice those who illegally traffic in prescription pills. ”

Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Wilbert L. Plummer said:  “These arrests exemplify the diligence of federal, state and local law enforcement targeting illegally diverted prescription drug trafficking throughout the East Coast.  From New York to Boston law enforcement on all levels worked collaboratively to identify and dismantle this drug trafficking organization from the source of supply to those distributing throughout our streets.  Just like all illicit drug trafficking organizations New York is a hub for drug distribution and there is no difference between the dangers of heroin, cocaine and marijuana abuse than diverted prescription pills.  In the wrong hands, for the wrong reasons - all drug abuse is dangerous.” 

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said: “The suspects operated like a gang of street corner pharmacists, selling illegal prescription pills hand-to-hand between 156th and 158th streets. That is, until their activity generated community complaints and police action that ultimately led to their arrests. I commend the detectives from the NYPD’s Narcotics Division, the DEA agents and the US Attorney’s office for their work during this investigation.”

As alleged in the Complaints unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

From at least April 2011 through at least May 2012, BRITO, VARGAS-PAREDES, CRUZ, GARCIANO, SANTIAGO-GUILLERMO, RAMOS, DELROSARIO, CABREA-GERMAN, and LARA worked together to sell tens of thousands of pills containing oxycodone and oxymorphone to customers in Upper Manhattan.   Between September 2011and December 2011 alone, the defendants sold hundreds of oxycodone pills to confidential informants working with the DEA and the NYPD.  The group also engaged in trafficking pills to New England for higher prices, and distributed illegally obtained non-controlled prescription medications designed to treat the human immunodeficiency virus (“HIV”).  Further, law enforcement intercepted numerous telephone calls in which the defendants discussed their trafficking of the illegally diverted pills.   For example, in a call on April 26, 2012, BRITO, who operated as a leader of the group, told CABREA-GERMAN that he had sent someone “a guy so he can sell him a few Perco,” meaning Percocet. 

From at least August 2011 through December 2011, GOMEZ, ABREU, and FUERTES worked together to sell pills containing oxycodone and oxymorphone to customers in Upper Manhattan in the area controlled by BRITO.  On just two occasions in August 2011, GOMEZ and ABREU sold 260 oxymorphone and oxycodone pills to confidential informants working with the DEA and the NYPD. 

From at least January 2012 through February 2012, ASMAR and JIMINEZ worked together to sell pills containing oxycodone to customers in Upper Manhattan in the area controlled by BRITO.  In that month, ASMAR and JIMINEZ sold more than 290 oxycodone pills to confidential informants working with the DEA and the NYPD. 

*              *              *

BRITO, VARGAS-PAREDES, CRUZ, GARCIANO, SANTIAGO-GUILLERMO, RAMOS, DELROSARIO, CABREA-GERMAN, and LARA are charged together in one Complaint with one count of conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws of the United States.  If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.  VARGAS-PAREDES and GARCIANO are charged with two counts each of distribution and possession with intent to distribute oxycodone; CRUZ and RAMOS are charged with one count each of distribution and possession with intent to distribute oxycodone; and VARGAS-PAREDES and RAMOS are charged with one count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute oxycodone.  These counts also each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.

GOMEZ, ABREU, and FUERTES are charged together in a separate Complaint with one count of conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws of the United States, and one count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute oxycodone and oxymorphone.  Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.

ASMAR and JIMENEZ are charged together in a separate Complaint with one count of conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws of the United States, and one count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute oxycodone.  Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.

Mr. Bharara praised the efforts of the DEA, the NYPD, the New York State Department of Financial Services, and the Westchester County Police Department.  He noted that the investigation is ongoing.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel C. Richenthal and Rachel Maimin are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Complaints are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

U.S. v. Brito, et al.

COUNT

CHARGE

DEFENDANTS

MAXIMUM PENALTIES

1

Narcotics Conspiracy

BRITO, VARGAS-PAREDES, CRUZ, GARCIANO, SANTIAGO-GUILLERMO, RAMOS, DELROSARIO, CABREA-GERMAN, LARA

20 years in prison

2

Narcotics Distribution

VARGAS-PAREDES, GARCIANO

20 years in prison

3

Narcotics Distribution

VARGAS-PAREDES, GARCIANO

20 years in prison

4

Narcotics Distribution

CRUZ, RAMOS

20 years in prison

5

Narcotics Distribution

VARGAS-PAREDES, RAMOS

20 years in prison

U.S. v. Gomez, et al.

COUNT

CHARGE

DEFENDANTS

MAXIMUM PENALTIES

1

Narcotics Conspiracy

GOMEZ, ABREU, FUERTES

20 years in prison

2

Narcotics Distribution

GOMEZ, ABREU, FUERTES

20 years in prison

U.S. v. Asmar and Jimenez

COUNT

CHARGE

DEFENDANTS

MAXIMUM PENALTIES

1

Narcotics Conspiracy

ASMAR, JIMENEZ

20 years in prison

2

Narcotics Distribution

ASMAR, JIMENEZ

20 years in prison

All Complaints: Defendants’
 Age and Residency

DEFENDANT

RESIDENCE

AGE

JULIO CESAR GUERRERO BRITO

Bronx, NY

27

HECTOR LUIS VARGAS-PAREDES

Bronx, NY

23

JONATHAN CRUZ

New York, NY

29

VIRGILIO ANTONIO DIAZ GARCIANO

Bronx, NY

23

RUBEN ALEXANDER SANTIAGO-GUILLERMO

Bronx, NY

21

PLINO RAMOS

New York, NY

30

EWARD DELROSARIO

Bronx, NY

25

AGUSTIN CABREA-GERMAN

Bronx, NY

36

ARTURO LARA

Bronx, NY

27

JENNY GOMEZ

New York, NY

23

FELIX ABREU

New York, NY

30

JOANNA FUERTES

New York, NY

28

WALID ZEYAD ASMAR

Clifton, New Jersey

46

HECTOR JIMINEZ

New York, NY

28

 

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