New York

$3 Million in Heroin, Fentanyl Seized in Bust at Central Park West Apartment: Feds

A drug task force uncovered an apparent heroin and fentanyl packaging mill -- complete with branding stamps like "Uber," "Uber Black," "Walking Dead" and "Time Bomb" -- along with $3 million in drugs and a loaded gun inside a home on Central Park West, authorities say. 

Four men were arrested and nearly 20 pounds of suspected fentanyl and heroin were seized in the bust at 448 Central Park West Friday, federal prosecutors say. 

Investigators had been watching the suspects as part of an ongoing drug investigation and on Friday afternoon, saw one of them, David Rodriguez, walk out of the building with a large white shopping bag, prosecutors say.

The man got into an Uber car, and investigators followed the vehicle to 121st Street and Amsterdam Avenue, where they pulled it over and found Rodriguez sitting in the backseat with an open box containing packaged cylinders of powder. 

Both David Rodriguez, 32, and the Uber driver, Richard Rodriguez, 42, were arrested. 

Back at the apartment on Central Park West, investigators executed a search warrant and found more packages of the suspected fentanyl and heroin, and 1,100 glassine envelopes of packaged powder marked "Uber," prosecutors said.

A loaded .25 caliber Beretta pistol was found wedged between two couch cushions, and $30,000 in cash was also recovered, along with IDs, cellphones and ledgers, as well as more than two dozen rubber stamps for marking glassines.

Two other men were arrested as they left the building: Johnny Beltrez, 32, and Jesus Perez-Cabral, 19, who investigators say is a member of the drug trafficking organization. 

The four suspects were arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on Saturday; bail was set for Perez-Cabral at $100,000, for David Rodriguez at $200,000, for Beltrez at $10,000 and for Richard Rodriguez at $1,000. 

It wasn't immediately clear if the men had attorneys who could comment on their behalf.

The seized drugs are estimated to have a street value of $3 million but could be millions more depending on the potency and proportion of fentanyl to heroin. 

Fentanyl is about 50 times stronger than heroin and is being increasingly mixed into illicit drugs in New York City, according to Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan. It's driving a spike in fatal overdoses, which reached an all-time high of 1,374 deaths in New York City in 2016 -- a 46-percent increase over 2015, according to NYC health data. 

There were more overdose deaths than homicides in New York last year, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. 

West Side residents had no idea a heroin operation this big was running right under their noses. 

"It's shocking," said Rob Schreiber. "You never know this stuff is happening until somebody gets arrested." 

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