September 3, 2014
Contact: Public Information Officer
SEP 03 (MANHATTAN, N.Y.) - Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Philip R. Bartlett, the Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), Jeffrey G. Hughes, Special Agent-in-Charge, Northeast Field Office, of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General (“VA-OIG”), and Albert Aviles, Chief of the Department of Veterans Affairs Police Detachment in Bronx, New York, announced that Robert Tucker, of Bronx, New York, and Erik Casiano, of West Orange, New Jersey, were arrested yesterday for allegedly engaging in a conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. The defendants will be presented in Manhattan federal court this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, the defendants used the cover of a facility dedicated to caring for our nation’s heroes to further a scheme to distribute large amounts of cocaine. I would like to thank the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Police for their outstanding work on this case.”
USPIS Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett said: “These employees allegedly took advantage of the trust placed in them by their employer and the US Government. Criminals involved in drug trafficking should take note, U.S. Postal Inspectors will vigorously pursue, arrest and bring to justice anyone who uses the US Mail to facilitate the transport of illegal drugs, firearms or drug proceeds.”
VA-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Jeffrey G. Hughes said: “The arrest of two VA Medical Center employees comes as a result of an outstanding collaborative effort of all the federal agencies involved. The Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General is committed to uncovering illegal activities at VA facilities and assisting in the prosecution of those who place their own interest ahead of the safety of both veterans receiving treatment and dedicated VA employees.”
VA Police Chief Albert Aviles said: “Drug abuse is a national epidemic and communities everywhere must be vigilant to suspicious activities. Thanks to vigilance and good police work, we can report today that these drugs are off the street and that the alleged perpetrators of this activity are under arrest. We are grateful to the Postal Inspection Service and our own VA Police staff, for their diligence and professionalism. We are grateful to our community law enforcement partners, for their significant involvement in this investigation. This was truly a team effort and a strong ‘win’ for law enforcement. Through this effort we can continue to assure a safe environment of care for all of our Veterans.”
According to the Complaint filed today in Manhattan federal court:
Since at least November 2013, the defendants used the United States Postal Service and the mailroom at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the Bronx, New York (the “Medical Center”), to receive and distribute narcotics, including cocaine. Tucker has been employed by the Medical Center since 1997, and has served as the Supervisor of the Logistics Warehouse and Mail Center since 2012. Casiano has been employed by the Medical Center since 2012 as a pipefitter in the Plumbing Department.
In December 2013, Postal Inspectors in San Juan, Puerto Rico, seized a suspicious package that was addressed to the Medical Center, to the attention of “Warehouse,” and discovered approximately two kilograms of cocaine inside the package.
On four separate occasions in July and August 2014, Tucker was observed by undercover law enforcement personnel retrieving packages similar in size and weight to the aforementioned package from the Medical Center mailroom. The packages had been sent from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to the Medical Center, to the attention of “Logistic[s] Warehouse.” On each occasion, Tucker brought the package to his office, and Casiano subsequently went into Tucker’s office and retrieved the package’s contents before carrying them out of the Medical Center building. Two of the four packages handled by Casiano and Tucker were examined by drug-sniffing dogs prior to delivery and tested positive for the presence of narcotics.
On September 2, 2014, Tucker was observed on video surveillance retrieving another similarly addressed package from the Medical Center mailroom. Tucker then brought the package to his office and met in the office with Casiano, who provided $500 in cash to Tucker. Thereafter, Casiano brought the package to his car. As Casiano attempted to drive out of the Medical Center facility, he was arrested by Postal Inspectors, VA-OIG agents, and DEA agents who seized one kilogram of cocaine from the car.
Tucker, 64, and Casiano, 29, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. They each face a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the USPIS, the Department of Veterans Affairs OIG, the Veterans Affairs Police, the DEA New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police, and thanked the Veterans Affairs Medical Center for its assistance. The DEA’s New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force comprises agents and officers of the U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the New York City Police Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the New York State Police, the U. S. Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, New York National Guard, Office of Foreign Assets Control, and the New York Department of Taxation and Finance.
This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Andrew DeFilippis is in charge of the prosecution.The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.