Postal worker among nine charged with shipping cocaine through the mail

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), and James J. Hunt, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced the unsealing of an indictment charging nine defendants with conspiring to distribute kilogram quantities of cocaine, and in particular, shipping the cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York City through the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) mail system.  Seven of the defendants were taken into federal custody this morning and will be presented this afternoon in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis.  Two defendants remain at large.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “As alleged, the defendants engaged in a brazen scheme to turn the U.S. Postal Service into their own drug delivery service.  The defendants, which includes an employee of the U.S. Postal Service, allegedly schemed to ship multiple kilograms of cocaine through the mail, going so far as to claim, in one instance, that a lost package contained the ashes of a cremated relative, when in fact, it contained cocaine.”

inspectorUSPIS Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett stated:  “Drug Trafficking Organizations have been moving large quantities of cocaine through Puerto Rico to the New York metropolitan area for many years, destroying the lives of many through addiction and despair. Today’s arrests should send a strong message to drug traffickers that the United States Postal Inspection Service will spare no resource or expense to protect the sanctity of the mail.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt said:  “Drug dealers’ desperation for product is just as desperate as an addict’s; however the dealer’s ‘fix’ is the profit made off the sale of poison.  This investigation underscores the extent drug traffickers will go to in order to smuggle illegal drugs into the United States.  The DEA Strike Force, USPIS, and U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of New York collaborated resources that uncovered a cocaine trafficking organization responsible for pumping millions of dollars-worth of  drugs onto New York City streets.”

According to the allegations contained in an Indictment[1] unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

Between May 2015 and July 2016, the defendants JUSTIN ACOSTA, ELEELIN DIAZ, JOSE DIAZ, a/k/a “Gordo,” CRISTIAN GARCIA, KELVING HERNANDEZ, FELIX JIMENEZ, a/k/a “Daddy,” ROBERT RODRIGUEZ, a/k/a “Smiley,” MIGUEL TORRES, a/k/a “Ant,” and BRITNEY WORTHY conspired to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms and more of cocaine.

The defendants operated the drug-trafficking scheme by arranging for the shipment of cocaine from Puerto Rico to various locations in New York City through the USPS, retrieving cocaine from various delivery locations, transporting cocaine to residences and a storage facility, and repackaging and selling the cocaine to individual customers.  Since February 2016, law enforcement officers have seized more than 25 kilograms of cocaine from shipments associated with the defendants.

Defendant HERNANDEZ is an employee of the USPS, and assisted co-conspirators by agreeing to track parcels and identifying locations to which narcotics could be sent.

Defendant RODRIGUEZ was involved in facilitating, receiving, and distributing the shipment of cocaine through USPS parcels, and contacted the USPS multiple times for information on the status and location of certain parcels that contained cocaine.  In communications with the USPS, including in an email RODRIGUEZ sent directly to the U.S. Postmaster General, RODRIGUEZ falsely asserted that one of the parcels, which he believed had been lost, contained the cremated ashes of his purportedly deceased father.  In fact, that parcel had been seized and found to contain approximately two kilograms of cocaine.

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ACOSTA, 26, JOSE DIAZ, 36, GARCIA, 31, JIMENEZ, 28, RODRIGUEZ, 36, TORRES, 34, and WORTHY, 24, were arrested this morning.  ELEELIN DIAZ, 27, and HERNANDEZ, 42, remain at large.  Each is charged with one count of conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute narcotics, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.  The statutory maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendants will be determined by the Court.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the USPIS and of the DEA’s New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force, which comprises agents and officers of the DEA, the New York City Police Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the New York State Police, the U. S. Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshal Service, New York National Guard, the New York Department of Taxation and Finance, the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office, the Clarkstown Police Department, the Port Washington Police Department, and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.  The Strike Force is partially funded by the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), which is a federally funded crime fighting initiative.

The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alex Rossmiller and David Abramowicz are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.