You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Six Additional Members of Heroin Trafficking Ring with Ties to a Mexican Cartel Indicted in Brooklyn Federal Court

Defendants Allegedly Transported Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars in Illicit Proceeds Stashed in Hidden Compartments in Cars

Earlier today, a seven-count superseding indictment was unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn, charging Enrique LaPorte, also known as “Chiquito,” Zaida Lopez, Philippe Medina, Carlos Mateo and Clarissa Vasquez, also known as “Clari,” with conspiring to distribute heroin as members of a large-scale trafficking operation that was based in Brooklyn and Queens.  A sixth defendant remains at large.  Defendants Clarissa Vasquez, Peter Vasquez and Luis Lopez are also indicted for laundering narcotics proceeds.  Clarissa Vasquez additionally faces charges for making false statements to law enforcement during the investigation.

The five newly charged defendants are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Steven Gold at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.  

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), and James P. O’Neill, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the charges.      

“The defendants were part of a large-scale heroin trafficking organization that moved hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit proceeds across the country from Los Angeles to New York, enriching themselves in the process,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “These charges demonstrate the effectiveness of the cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement in dismantling large-scale trafficking organizations and prosecuting those responsible to the fullest extent of the law.”

Mr. Donoghue expressed his appreciation to the New York Metropolitan Safe Streets Task Force, which is comprised of detectives from the NYPD and special agents from the FBI, and additionally thanked the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Pennsylvania State Police, Indiana State Police, New Jersey State Police, the Chicago Field Divisions of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration New York City Strike Force and Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office for their participation and assistance in the investigation.

“Each day we face another overdose, another loved one lost to the illegal drugs flooding into our communities,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.  “The subjects in this case allegedly created a cross-country drug trade, using the money to support lavish lifestyles all on the backs of people addicted to drugs that are killing tens of thousands of people all over the country every year.  This case and others we are actively investigating each day on all of our FBI Safe Streets Task Forces illustrate our determination to go after dealers and keep these deadly drugs off the streets.”

According to the charging instruments and other court documents, all of the defendants were members of a large-scale heroin trafficking organization that trafficked hundreds of kilograms of heroin into New York City and had connections to a Mexican cartel.  Between December 2011 and February 2015, law enforcement seized over $800,000 in narcotics proceeds from the organization.  Some of the newly added defendants were found in possession of hundreds of thousands of dollars in narcotics proceeds while transporting them across the country in furtherance of their family-run operation.  For example, in 2011, Ohio State troopers seized over $311,000 from a hidden “trap” inside a vehicle driven by defendant Medina; in 2014, Pennsylvania State troopers seized over $300,000 from a “trap” inside a vehicle registered to defendant Clarissa Vasquez, and in which defendants Zaida Lopez and Enrique LaPorte were traveling; and in 2015, Ohio State troopers stopped a vehicle driven by Carlos Mateo, from which Indiana law enforcement later recovered over $48,000 secreted in a “trap.”          

The proceeds of the illicit narcotics operation funded a lavish lifestyle for the Lopez and Vasquez families, their associates and co-conspirators.  For example, Clarissa Vasquez spent extravagantly on luxury goods and gifts, including gold and diamond encrusted jewelry, 24 karat gold-gilded and “Versace” branded birthday cakes for her brother and fiancée, and boasted of her co-defendants’ exorbitant purchases and expensive vehicles on social media.  While law enforcement seized nearly $1 million in luxury vehicles, including a Rolls Royce Ghost, Lamborghini Hurácan, Audi R8 Spyder, Mercedes CLS63 AMG and Range Rover Sport, nearly $1 million in cash and tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of high fashion shoes and handbags, additional assets of the co-conspirators remain at large.  All proceeds of the narcotics trafficking conspiracy will be subject to forfeiture, according to the indictment. 

The charges announced today are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

If convicted, all of the defendants face mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years’ imprisonment and maximum sentences of life. 

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Lindsay K. Gerdes, Jennifer M. Sasso and Andrey Spektor are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance provided by Assistant United States Attorney Brian D. Morris of the Office’s Asset Forfeiture Unit. 

The Defendants:

ENRIQUE LAPORTE (also known as “Chiquito”)
Age: 41
Brooklyn, New York

ZAIDA LOPEZ 
Age:  41
Brooklyn, New York

PHILIPPE MEDINA
Age: 32
Brooklyn, New York

CARLOS MATEO
Age: 42
Brooklyn, New York

CLARISSA VASQUEZ (also known as “Clari”) 
Age: 30
Brooklyn, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No.  17-CR-390 (S-1) (RJD)

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Contact: 
John Marzulli Tyler Daniels United States Attorney’s Office (718) 254-6034
Updated March 28, 2018