New York Attorney General Letitia James Announces “Takedown” of New York Narcotics Distribution Ring

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New York Attorney General Letitia James at podium
Photo: Colin Benjamin

New York Attorney General Letitia James

On Thursday, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the arrest of 28 people connected to a oxycodone distribution trafficking ring that operated in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Westchester County and Connecticut.

The Thursday press conference coincided with the unsealing of two indictments in the Bronx.

The first indictment was “unsealed today before Bronx County Acting Supreme Court Judge Ralph Fabrizio, charged 21 individuals” on various drug-related offences. The second indictment charged “Elba Sanchez and seven others” with drug-related offences.

At the at the 2:00 p.m. press conference, Attorney General James, spoke about the ten-month investigation dubbed “Operation Oxy-Concourse,” which led to a 181-counts in the indictments.

“There is zero tolerance for those who flood our communities with dangerous narcotics that claim lives,” said James. “These individuals allegedly made profit off of prescription drugs and trafficked tens of thousands of highly addictive pills throughout New York City and Westchester. In order to combat the opioid crisis that is destroying our communities, we must tackle the issue from every angle and this investigation is our latest effort to take down those who sell these illicit drugs.”

DEA Special Agent Ray Donovan also spoke at the press conference

“These arrests are significant because they bring attention to an emerging threat – oxycodone trafficking networks,” said Donovan. “Oxycodone pills have replaced heroin glassines on the street, and heroin trafficking rings’ new competition are oxycodone distribution organizations. This criminal motley crew had the means to distribute nearly two million oxycodone pills annually throughout counties of New York and Connecticut; but as a result of collaborative law enforcement efforts, their operation has been shut down and put out of business.”

According to the attorney general’s press release, “authorities seized approximately 1,200 oxycodone pills of varying dosages. During this time, the operation sold over 23,000 oxycodone pills, with a street value exceeding $2 million. Today’s takedown was dubbed ‘Operation Oxy-Concourse’ due to the volume of oxycodone sales in and around Grand Concourse in the Bronx County.”

The A.G. Office supplied a chart showing where the individuals operated from. The chart characterizers some of the individuals as “Suppliers” and others as “Re-sellers.” The chart shows 11 of the indicted individuals were characterized as “Bronx Suppliers.” Seven were listed as “Brooklyn suppliers.” Three people from the Bronx, and two from Connecticut, are listed as “Re-Sellers.”

One person from Brooklyn is also listed as a “Re-seller.” The attorney general’s press release notes that “In each case, it is believed that the pills were paid for multiple times. For example, the initial source would pay $300 each for the doctor visit and the pharmacy (some of which were covered by insurance) for 100 oxycodone tablets (totaling $600).Those sources typically re-sold the 100 pills for approximately $10 per pill ($1,000) to a collecting manager (like Elba Sanchez). The collecting manager would then re-sell those 100 pills for approximately $18 per pill ($1,800) to the distributor (like Wilkins Almonte).The distributor would then re-sell those same 100 pills for approximately $23 per pill ($2,300) to the street-level dealer, who would then sell them to end users for approximately $30 per pill ($3,000). Thus, the average amount of currency transacted from a single 100-tablet prescription was approximately $8,700. Consequently, it is estimated that the street-value of the oxycodone sold during this 10-month investigation exceeded 2 million dollars.”

Of the 28 alleged drug offenders, less than half were named. Here are the names found on the chart: Elba Sanchez, Michael Sanchez, Jovany Lopez, Joel R. Lopez Figueroa, Juan Veras-Reyes, Esteban Almonte and Wilkins-Almonte. The last two are apparently brothers. In noting these last names, the Black Star News asked Attorney General James if they were all Latino. She told us she didn’t know—and none of the other law enforcement officials seemed to know. Other names revealed elsewhere in the press report are Michael Sanchez, Richard De Pena Rodriquez, Jeffrey Tavarez, Yamzi Aquino Raul Morales, Luis DeJesus and Dora Sarita-Duran.

Elba Sanchez is said to be the main supplier of this ring. Sanchez allegedly “purchased prescriptions for large amounts of oxycodone from over a dozen sources in and around Kings County, and then sold the oxycodone to Wilkins Almonte. Often this was done with the assistance of Michael Sanchez and/or Richard De Pena Rodriguez. Wilkins and Esteban Almonte would then distribute the oxycodone, mainly from within the High Class Barberi in Bronx County, where both brothers worked as barbers.”

During the press conference, Special Agent Donovan talked about “rogue doctors” who are involved in this oxycodone drug ring. Much is still unknown about these “rogue doctors.” The Black Star News asked about the names of these “rogue doctors” but was unable to get any.

In a recent New York Times story, it was reported that Ms. James filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, a brand name for Oxycodone. The lawsuit came as Purdue Pharma executives are allegedly shifting millions of dollars to personal offshore accounts. Purdue Pharma recently agreed to pay $270 million to settle a lawsuit brought by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter.

In Rochester, New York, federal authorities recently charged the Rochester Drug Cooperative (RDC) with “knowingly and intentionally” violating narcotics laws and “distributing dangerous, highly addictive opioids to pharmacy customers that it knew were being sold and used illicitly." Former RDC CEO Laurence Doud III, 75, was recently arrested.

“This prosecution is the first of its kind,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman. “Executives of a pharmaceutical distributor and the distributor itself have been charged with drug trafficking, trafficking the same drugs that are fueling the opioid epidemic that is ravaging this country. Our Office will do everything in its power to combat this epidemic, from street-level dealers to the executives who illegally distribute drugs from their boardrooms.”

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