Two men were charged with transporting over $14 million in heroin in “one of the biggest heroin seizes” ever to strike New York City.
On Jan. 26, members of the DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force were staking out an area in Elmhurst, Queens, on an unrelated case as part of “an ongoing investigation into heroin distribution organizations operating in the Northeast region of the United States,” according to statement from law enforcement officials cited by The New York Post. During this time, a silver pickup truck and a blue “monster truck,” both with North Carolina license plates, were spotted circling the block.
“It was a monster pickup truck driving around the streets of Queens looking for a place to park in the snow, so it really stood out,” Erin Mulvey, spokeswoman for the New York division of the DEA, said, according to The Post. “The two trucks kept going around and around in the same area.”
“[The DEA agents] stopped the two vehicles and made an inquiry,” DEA Special Agent in Charge James Hunt told 1010 WINS, according to WCBS News. “The drivers gave conflicting statements.”
Trained police dogs were taken to inspect the vehicles, which alerted the officers to the presence of illicit controlled substances. Both trucks were taken to the DEA’s Manhattan headquarters, where a New York State Search Warrant was executed. Bags of heroin were then found inside an old drive shaft and axle casings that were in the bed of the pickup truck.
“It was hidden in a drive shaft that belonged to another vehicle,” Hunt said.
In total, about 100 pounds of heroin were found in the vehicle. According to officials, the drugs are worth around $14 million.
Both drivers, Peter Omar Garcia-Romero and Jose Guadencio Lantan-Vela, were taken into custody. They face charges of second-degree conspiracy and first- and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. The men, originally from Guatemala, will be arraigned at Manhattan Criminal Court.
“It’s one of the biggest heroin seizes ever in the City of New York,” Hunt said.