Combatting Local and National Narcotics Trafficking and Associated Violence, Financing, and Poisonings
The Office is devoted to prosecuting narcotics-related offenses harming our communities locally, nationally, and internationally. The Office’s Narcotics Unit works closely with its law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute narcotics traffickers fueling the opioid crisis through the distribution of fentanyl and its analogues; dealers who traffic in cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and other controlled substances; and those involved in the illegal diversion and distribution of prescription painkillers. Prosecutors in the Office’s White Plains Division also play a critical role in this area.
As deaths from opioid poisonings continue to increase, the Narcotics Unit has prioritized holding accountable those traffickers who sell narcotics resulting in the deaths of their customers, including the following:
- Federal Narcotics Offenses Charged For Four Defendants Running Fentanyl Operation From Bronx Daycare Center: Following the tragic fentanyl poisoning death of a one-year-old boy and the poisoning injuries suffered by three other young children, four defendants were charged with narcotics conspiracy offenses resulting in death, among other charges, for their role in operating a fentanyl distribution scheme inside a Bronx daycare center. Federal investigators identified additional members of the conspiracy after locating fentanyl presses and kilograms of fentanyl hidden inside the facility.
- Dealer Of Fentanyl-Laced Heroin That Resulted In The Overdose Death Of Actor Michael K. Williams Sentenced To 10 Years In Prison: On or about September 5, 2021, in connection with a larger drug trafficking organization’s drug sales, Irvin Cartagena, a/k/a “Green Eyes,” sold Michael K. Williams heroin, which was laced with fentanyl and a fentanyl analogue. Williams died as a result of using that fentanyl-laced heroin. Despite knowing that Williams died after being sold the organization’s product, Cartagena and his co-conspirators continued to sell fentanyl-laced heroin in broad daylight amidst residential apartment buildings in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Cartagena fled to Puerto Rico after Williams’s death, where he was ultimately arrested in February 2022, later convicted, and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
- Leader Of Drug Delivery Service Responsible For Three Fentanyl Poisoning Deaths Sentenced To 30 Years In Prison: In March 2021, Billy Ortega mixed fentanyl into a weak batch of cocaine and sold it to at least five customers, who had no idea that they were receiving cocaine mixed with that deadly opioid. In the course of a single day – March 17, 2021 – Ortega delivered, through one of his couriers, fentanyl-laced cocaine to three victims at three separate locations in Manhattan. All three victims died after consuming the drugs distributed by Ortega. After being convicted at trial, Ortega was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
- Leader of Drug Delivery Service Sentenced to 22 Years in Prison In Connection With Overdose Death: Ariel Tavarez, a/k/a “A,” a/k/a “Mike,” was sentenced to 22 years in prison in connection with his conspiring to distribute heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, and a fentanyl analogue, and to distributing narcotics that caused the 2018 death of Colin Kroll, the co-founder of the video hosting service Vine and the trivia game application HQ Trivia. Tavarez, who ran a drug delivery service called “Mike’s Candyshop,” stored heroin, cocaine, a fentanyl analogue, and cash from drug sales in various stash locations; sold only to customers who had been referred by existing customers; delivered narcotics directly to customers at locations specified by the customer; and used threats of violence, including with firearms, to maintain order and eliminate competition with his own drug organization.
As deaths from fentanyl and fentanyl analogues continue to spike, the Narcotics Unit has prioritized prosecutions of those trafficking in wholesale quantities of fentanyl, including the following:
- Fentanyl Traffickers Sentenced To Decades In Prison: In December 2022, Robert Shannon, a/k/a “Tank,” Kareem Roderique, a/k/a “Ernest Tucker,” was sentenced to 22 years in prison following his conviction at trial of narcotics conspiracy and firearms offenses. Shannon faced trial after he and others were charged with running a large-scale narcotics operation out of a narcotics mill and stash house in East Orange, New Jersey. Shannon and his co-defendants obtained large quantities of fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine and utilized their stash house to mix, bag up, and prepare the drugs to sell to other drug dealers, who sold the drugs in the community. The defendants also obtained and kept two loaded firearms in the stash house to protect their drugs and supplies.
- One Of The Largest-Ever Fentanyl Seizures In New York City: In October 2023, members of law enforcement investigating a network of drug traffickers executed a search warrant and found a Bronx home had been turned into a “mill” for the purpose of packaging large quantities of fentanyl into portions for wholesale distribution. During their search, investigators found 24 kilograms of suspected fentanyl as well as over 200,000 suspected fentanyl pills already packaged and ready for distribution to other traffickers for further sale. This seizure represents one of the single largest seizures of fentanyl in New York City history. Some of the pills appear to have been manufactured to mimic prescription drugs, and others were pressed into colorful shapes to resemble party drugs such as ecstasy. Four defendants have been charged with narcotics conspiracy for their role in maintaining the mill.
Because narcotics trafficking is often associated with those who commit or are willing to commit acts of violence, such as murder, robbery, extortion, and non-fatal shootings, the Narcotics Unit as well as Prosecutors in the Office’s White Plains Division bring prosecutions to address that violence, including through the use of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), including the following:
- Founding Member Of New York’s Largest Latin Kings Set Sentenced To 27 Years In Prison: In June 2023, Diego Mateo, a/k/a “Casa,” the highest-ranking member and founder of the Black Mob, a subset of the Latin Kings gang, was sentenced to 27 years in prison following his guilty plea to narcotics offenses. For more than two decades before his arrest and prosecution by the Office, Mateo ran the largest and most violent set of the Latin Kings in the New York area. He recruited hundreds of young men into his gang and used them to run a massive operation that committed countless acts of violence. In total, the Office charged more than 20 members and associates of the Black Mob with racketeering offenses, narcotics conspiracy, and firearms offenses.
- Chappaqua Man Sentenced To 21 Years For Participating In A Gunpoint Robbery Of 176 Kilograms Of Cocaine And Smuggling A Firearm Into A Federal Prison: In September 2022, Deejay White was sentenced to 21 years for his participation in a dangerous gunpoint robbery of cocaine that left several victims injured. Two victims were pistol-whipped and a third sustained serious injuries after jumping out of the apartment’s third-floor window in an attempt to flee to safety. After he was arrested and in jail, White continued to commit crimes, devising a scheme to bring a loaded gun and drugs into federal prison, placing inmates, prison staff and court personnel in grave danger.
- Former High School Dean Convicted of 2010 Murder: In July 2023, Israel Garcia, a/k/a “Shorty Rock,” the former leader of the Get Money Gunnaz subset of the Young Gunnaz street gang (the “GMG YGz”), was convicted by a jury following trial of the 2010 murder of Alfonso “Joey” McClinton in aid of racketeering. Garcia shot and killed McClinton on a residential street in the Bronx, New York, as part of a dispute over narcotics trafficking territory. Garcia was also convicted of engaging in a conspiracy to distribute narcotics, murder while engaged in a narcotics conspiracy, murder through the use of a firearm, possessing firearms in connection with narcotics trafficking, and attempted witness tampering.
- Prosecution of Former Police Officer and others for Quadruple Homicide and Drug Trafficking: In March 2023, Nicholas Tartaglione, a former police officer turned drug dealer, was convicted by a jury of all 17 counts, including four counts that require a mandatory life sentence, following a four-week trial in White Plains. In late 2015 and early 2016, Tartaglione invested approximately $200,000 in a cocaine deal whereby his associates would purchase multiple kilograms of cocaine in Texas, resell them in Florida, and continue to re-invest the profits in more cocaine. In January 2016, one of Tartaglione’s associates, Martin Luna, reported that the $270,000 that was to be used to buy the next batch of cocaine had been stolen. Over the next several months, Tartaglione and his coconspirators mounted a pressure campaign against Luna to recover the money, but to no avail. Suspecting that Luna had stolen the money himself, Tartaglione and his coconspirators lured Luna to a bar in Chester, New York, where Tartaglione would confront him. Believing the trip was for legitimate construction work, Luna brought his two adult nephews and a close family friend. Tartaglione tortured and strangled Martin Luna to death with a zip tie trying to recover the money. The remaining three victims were brought to Tartaglione’s ranch where they were each shot in the back of the head execution style. All four victims were buried in a mass grave.
The Narcotics Unit regularly brings prosecutions for the diversion of prescription narcotics, including Oxycodone and other opiates, by doctors, nurses, and companies, which is an egregious form of drug trafficking that is also an abuse of public trust, including the following:
- Manhattan Pain Management Doctor and Office Manager Sentenced for Oxycodone Diversion: In March 2023, Howard Adelglass, a licensed physician who operated a pain-management clinic located in Midtown Manhattan, was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for a scheme in which Adelglass wrote thousands of prescriptions for large quantities of Oxycodone, many to individuals whom Adelglass knew did not need the pills for a legitimate medical purpose, in exchange for cash payments. With particularly vulnerable patients, Adelglass and his Office Manager and co-defendant solicited and, in some instances, received sex acts in exchange for illegal Oxycodone prescriptions.
- Yonkers Doctor Pleads Guilty To Illegal Distribution Of More Than 100,000 Oxycodone Pills: In January 2023, Marc Laruelle, a licensed doctor specializing in psychiatry, was sentenced to four years in prison following his conviction for prescribing more than 100,000 doses of Oxycodone without a legitimate medical purpose.