Five Members Of A Bronx-Based Drug Trafficking Organization Arrested On Narcotics Conspiracy And Money Laundering Charges
Defendants Allegedly Conspired to Transport Cocaine Through the U.S. Mail from Puerto Rico to New York
A two-count indictment was unsealed this week in the United States District Court in Brooklyn charging six defendants with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and/or money laundering. Yesterday, a United States Postal Carrier assigned to the Highbridge Postal Station in the Bronx was arraigned before Magistrate Judge Viktor V. Pohorelsky at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. Today, four additional members of the organization were arrested. Three of the defendants are scheduled to be arraigned today before Magistrate Judge Pohorelsky. The fifth defendant, Carlos Bello Tirado, will be arraigned today in the Middle District of Florida, and the government will seek his removal to New York.
The charges and arrests were announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent-in-Charge, New York Field Office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Phillip R. Bartlett, Postal Inspector-in-Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service, New York Field Office, and Eileen Neff, Special Agent-in-Charge, United States Postal Service, Office of Inspector General (OIG), Northeast Field Office.
As detailed in the indictment and other court filings by the government, between approximately 2011 and 2013, the defendants Kelvin Cisnero Santos, Saul Ovalles Corniel, Carlos Bello Tirado, Ernest Pena, and Jermaine Sandifer were members of a large-scale drug trafficking organization based in the Bronx. The organization purchased hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from suppliers in Puerto Rico, packaged the drugs, and sent the drug-laden parcels through the mail from Puerto Rico to pre-arranged addresses in the Bronx. The defendant Sandifer, a United States postal carrier, intercepted those parcels at the post office and delivered them to members of the organization. According to the detention letter filed by the government, each parcel sent to Sandifer contained approximately one to two kilograms of cocaine, and Sandifer was paid between $1,000 and $5,000 per parcel. The defendants also conspired to mail cocaine from Puerto Rico to numerous post office boxes operated by the organization in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and New Jersey. The cocaine was sold to various distributors in New York and New Jersey.
Defendants Santos, Corniel, Tirado, Pena, and others laundered proceeds from the drug sales through bank accounts in the New York metropolitan area to pay suppliers and make additional purchases of cocaine.
“However creative drug traffickers are in delivering their lethal product to our shores and the streets of our communities, we and our partners in law enforcement are committed to stopping them. The defendants will now be held to account,” stated United States Attorney Capers. Mr. Capers extended his grateful appreciation to the Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Field Office; the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations, New York Field Office; the Port Authority of the New York and New Jersey Police Department; the New York City Police Department; and the Queens District Attorney’s Office for their assistance in this case.
“This U.S. postal employee allegedly used his trusted position as a letter carrier to conspire with others to flood our streets with hundreds of kilos of cocaine,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Melendez. “HSI and its law enforcement partners are committed to dismantling drug trafficking organizations that wreak havoc on our neighborhoods.”
“Postal Inspectors along with our law enforcement partners take the security and safety of the U.S. Mail very seriously, and will vigorously pursue and bring to justice anyone who uses our nations mail system to facilitate the transport of illegal drugs,” said Inspector-in- Charge Bartlett.
Special Agent-in-Charge Neff stated, “USPS-OIG investigations help to maintain the integrity of Postal Service processes and personnel. In rare situations such as this, with a Postal Service employee allegedly abusing a position of trust, our Special Agents work jointly with our law enforcement partners to investigate those who transport illegal narcotics through the U.S. Mail.”
The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, the defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years and a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Douglas M. Pravda and Julia Nestor are in charge of the prosecution.
KELVIN CISNERO SANTOS
Bronx, New York
SAUL OVALLES CORNIEL
Newark, New Jersey
CARLOS BELLO TIRADO
Bronx, New York
Perth Amboy, New Jersey
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-CR-309