‘El Chapo’ branded heroin seized in $5 million drug bust in the Bronx

Posted at 3:27 PM, Jul 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-19 15:27:33-04

NEW YORK — Authorities intercepted $5 million worth of suspected heroin, including some branded with an “El Chapo” stamp, they say was headed for distribution on the New York City streets and around the northeast, officials announced Friday.

Three kilograms of suspected heroin was seized, along with over 250,000 individually packaged glassine.

On July 16, members of the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force and investigators with the special narcotics prosecutor’s office were conducting surveillance in the area of Wallace Avenue and Boston Road in the Bronx, as part of an ongoing opioid investigation, when they observed a black Toyota Corolla sedan bearing Massachusetts license plates parked near 3039 Wallace Ave. A man walked out of the building and placed a large weighted shopping bag inside the vehicle.

A short time later, officers conducted a vehicle stop on the vehicle and noticed a large shopping bag on the floor of the back seat of the vehicle with a large number of packages consistent with heroin glassines.

A search revealed the bag contained approximately 70,000 individually packaged glassine envelopes containing white powder and the driver, Luis Carmona-Ilarraza, was arrested.

The next day, agents and investigators reviewed surveillance video of 3039 Wallace Avenue which showed a man, later identified as Joseph Medina-Hidalgo, give a second man, later identified as Amaury Lora-Grullon, a large suitcase.

Lora-Grullon then placed the suitcase in the trunk of a 2013 black Toyota Camry outside of the apartment building. Lora-Grullon entered the vehicle and left the location. At approximately 3:10 p.m. agents and investigators conducted a vehicle stop on the Camry. Approximately 17,000 individually packaged glassines of heroin were found inside the suitcase in the trunk of the vehicle and Lora-Grullon was placed under arrest.

A short time later, authorities searched 3039 Wallace Ave., where they dismantled a fully functioning heroin mill that contained three kilograms of heroin, an estimated 170,000 glassines of milled and packaged heroin.

A substantial amount of packaging equipment was also recovered, including numerous grinders used to process the heroin, packaging materials and 47 various stamps. Stamps were used to brand the heroin with a variety of names, including El Chapo, Dunkin Donuts, Exit 4, Rolex, T Mobile, NBA, Coca-Cola, Sleep Walking, Peter Rabbit, Superman, Hello Kitty, iPhone, KTM and Black Hand.

Glassine envelopes of heroin were piled on tables, in bags and on the floor. Most of the glassines were already bundled into rectangular packages that were wrapped in white paper and plastic according to brand name, ready for delivery on the street. Three kilograms in brick form were found in bags wrapped in cellophane.

The DEA estimated that the black market value of the suspected heroin at approximately $5 million. Results of laboratory analysis of the seized narcotics are pending.

Medina-Hidalgo is scheduled for arraignment today in Manhattan Criminal Court. Lora-Grullon and Carmona-Ilarraza were previously arraigned and entered not guilty pleas.

“Evident in the various stamps used to brand their heroin, this organization catered to numerous dealers in New York City and the Northeast,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan. “‘Hello kitty’, ‘Rolex’ and ‘NBA’ are just three popular brands used by the organization to stamp their product and lure users throughout New York City. Other stamps included an all too timely ‘El Chapo’ stamp, and a stamp bearing ‘Exit 4’, both of which were found in the heroin mill. ‘Exit 4’ is significant because it is the exit off the Massachusetts Turnpike destined to Springfield, MA where one of the defendants is from, indicating the organization’s reach outside of New York and into the Northeast. I applaud the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor and the Bronx District Attorney’s Office for their collaboration in this investigation.”