Skip to main content
Press Release

Leader of Far Rockaway Drug Organization Sentenced to More Than 22 Years’ Imprisonment

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York
Jose Rodriguez’s Organization Trafficked Heroin, Crack and Powder Cocaine, Marijuana and Firearms

Earlier today, Jose Rodriguez was sentenced by United States District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano to 272 months’ imprisonment for leading a Far Rockaway-based drug trafficking organization that distributed more than a kilogram of heroin, quantities of crack and powder cocaine and marijuana, and sold more than a dozen firearms, including two assault rifles.  Rodriguez pleaded guilty on January 20, 2017 to conspiring to distribute narcotics and using and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a narcotics distribution conspiracy. 

Rodriguez is the fifth defendant to be sentenced in this case and a related case.  In November 2017, Jose Perez was sentenced to 84 months’ imprisonment; in February 2018, Grace Jaen was sentenced to 33 months’ imprisonment; in December 2018, Jermaine Stephenson was sentenced to 72 months’ imprisonment; and in January 2019, Johnathan Johnson was sentenced to 87 months’ imprisonment. 

Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), John B. Devito, Special Agent-in-Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, New York Division (ATF), and James P. O’Neill, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the sentence.

“Rodriguez’s drug organization endangered the residents of Far Rockaway, not only by distributing highly addictive drugs and guns throughout the community, but also using threats of gun violence to operate the drug business,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.  “This Office, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to relentlessly investigate and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who threaten the safety of our communities.” 

“The frustration and fear felt in communities plagued by drug dealers and criminal organizations protecting their turf must be exhausting for people just trying to live their lives,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.  “The FBI’s New York Metro Safe Streets Task Force, along with our law enforcement partners, understands one of the most powerful ways to address the problem is going after the leadership of these groups.  We work day in and day out with the goal of making an impact in places where people may not feel much hope.”

“The Rodriguez organization was responsible for distributing significant amounts of illegal narcotics and guns within the community. Members of this organization utilized illegal guns to terrorize the community in order to maintain control over their lucrative drug turf,” stated ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Devito.  “This case is yet another example of how the men and woman of ATF work in a collaborative manner with all of our law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle violent criminal organizations. I would like to thank the Unites States Attorney’s Office for their work in prosecuting this case.”

 “This is another great example of how the NYPD, in close partnership with our law enforcement colleagues, precisely hones in on the worst criminals in New York City and sees their cases through to appropriate and meaningful prison sentences,” stated NYPD Commissioner O’Neill.  “Anyone who illegally deals in narcotics or firearms can fully expect the nation’s best investigators to be relentless in our mission to make every neighborhood safer.”

Rodriguez’s drug organization bought distribution quantities of heroin, and packaged it in “sleeves,” each containing 100 individual bags of heroin, and in “bundles,” each containing 10 individual bags of heroin, for resale by mid-level drug dealers to users.  In a recorded conversation, Rodriguez admitted earning $10,000 to $20,000 per week selling drugs. 

Rodriguez and his co-conspirators sold and used firearms in furtherance of their drug trafficking activities.  During the investigation, Rodriguez was intercepted ordering firearms from co-conspirator Jonathan Johnson, who acquired them in North Carolina and delivered them to Rodriguez in Far Rockaway.  In another intercepted call, a drug customer complained to Rodriguez that co-conspirator Jose Perez threatened him with a gun.  Rodriguez replied, “I know he pulled a gun. . . .  He did that because you owed me money.  That’s why I told him not to shoot you.” 

This case was investigated as part of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.  The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high-level members of illegal drug and weapons trafficking organizations.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.  The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kevin Trowel and Mathew S. Miller.

The Defendants:

Jose Rodriguez (also known as “Lazaro”)
Age:  51
Far Rockaway, New York

Jermaine Stephenson (also known as “Half”)
Age:  36
Far Rockaway, New York

Jose Perez
Age:  53
Far Rockaway, New York

Grace Jaen
Age:  43
Far Rockaway, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 15-576-ENV

JOHNATHAN JOHNSON (also known as “Black Keys”)
Age: 38
Rockingham, North Carolina

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17-185-ENV


John Marzulli
Tyler Daniels
United States Attorney’s Office
(718) 254-6323

Updated February 22, 2019

Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods