JACKSON HEIGHTS, Queens –– An estimated $2 million worth of cocaine is off the streets after authorities caught an alleged drug dealer “with evil ingenuity” carrying the narcotics concealed in candy wrappers Wednesday, officials said.
As part of a multi-agency operation, a drug enforcement task force was conducting surveillance near the corner of 77th Street and Northern Blvd. in Jackson Heights, Queens on Wednesday evening when they spotted suspect Juan Pablo Martinez, 48, leaving his 82nd Street home with a backpack, according to a press release from the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor.
Law enforcement agents followed Martinez as he rode his bicycle to a gasoline station nearby on 76th Street and Northern Blvd., where he approached a driver of a gray Acura. There, they watched him place the backpack into the rear seat and pump gas for the car before taking the bag back, officials said.
The police officers walked toward the vehicle and identified themselves as cops to Martinez. He showed them a single candy that he pulled from the backpack and allowed police to further examine the bag. Upon closer inspection, cops discovered the wrapped candies were hiding cocaine inside two smaller colorful bags that could potentially fall into the hands of children, officials said.
The agents seized two kilograms of cocaine and placed Martinez under arrest 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“Leave it to drug traffickers to smuggle cocaine disguised as candy; showing the extreme but evil ingenuity used to make a profit off the sale of poison,” said James J. Hunt, the DEA special agent in charge. “We have seen so many different concealment methods, but none more dangerous than using candy as a façade which opens doors to inadvertent overdoses if mistaken by a child.”
Martinez’s home was immediately searched and authorities uncovered two more kilograms of cocaine packaged as candy, powdered cocaine, a kilo press, drug ledger and $12,000 in cash, according to officials. The DEA valued the seized drugs to be approximately $2 million.
He was charged with two counts of a criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and third degrees, respectively, authorities said.