Five alleged drug traffickers are under arrest and accused of stashing drugs, cash and guns in homes where day care businesses operated and children played.
Officials say traffickers sent packages of cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York City, usually between 10 and 22 pounds per month. In one shipment, postal inspectors found more than 2 pounds of cocaine wrapped in SpongeBob SquarePants bedding.
The organization stashed its drugs and cash at a home in the Bronx that was also used as a day care called Fun World Childcare, authorities said.
The location was raided in September 2013, and agents say they found more than 2 pounds of cocaine, 1,000 oxycodone pills and $15,250 in cash. Some of the cocaine was hidden in a child's "Hot Wheels" lunch bag, prosecutors said.
A handgun, cash and a drug scale were found at a stash house across the street, authorities said.
The Bronx couple who lived in the home were arrested in September.
New York City's Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said the alleged ringleader of the operation was arrested Thursday at a home in the Bronx, where a second day care center operated under the name Sweet Home. Authorities also found $7,500 in cash in a bedroom there.
"Day care centers are considered safe houses not stash houses, which is what these drug dealers used to traffic and store illegal narcotics," NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said in a statement. "Thanks to the efforts of the investigators in this case, the leaders of this sophisticated drug-smuggling operation have been brought to justice.”
Two other defendants were arrested Thursday.
Those in custody face a range of charges, including conspiracy, money laundering and endangering the welfare of a child.