Drug Enforcement Administration

New York

James J. Hunt, Special Agent in Charge

May 04, 2017

Contact: Erin Mulvey

Phone Number: (212) 337-3900

NYDETF Seizes $2 Million Worth Of Cocaine Concealed In Candy

MANHATTAN, N.Y. -   - Juan Pablo Martinez, 47, of Queens, New York, was arrested Wednesday after a search of his backpack revealed two kilograms of cocaine, the majority of which was concealed as individually wrapped candies.

James J. Hunt, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York (DEA), Bridget G. Brennan, New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, George P. Beach II, Superintendent of the New York State Police, and James P. O’Neill, the Commissioner of the New York City Police (NYPD) and announced the arrest and seizure.

On Wednesday evening, members of the New York Drug Enforcement Task (DETF) Group T-41 were conducting surveillance near the corner of 77th Street and Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights, Queens as part of an ongoing drug investigation at approximately 6 p.m. when they observed Martinez exit 3226 82nd Street carrying a weighted black backpack.

Agents and officers followed Martinez as he climbed onto a bicycle and rode to a gas station on Northern Blvd., where he approached the driver of a gray Acura MDX. Members of T-41 watched Martinez place the backpack into the rear seat of the Acura and pump gas for the vehicle. Martinez then removed the backpack from the vehicle.

Agents and officers approached the vehicle, identifying themselves as police officers. Martinez showed them what appeared to be a piece of candy that he pulled out of the backpack and allowed the agents to examine the bag’s contents. Agents and officers observed what appeared to be individually wrapped candy inside two colorful heat-sealed bags. Closer inspection revealed the candy wrappers contained cocaine. Agents seized two kilograms of cocaine and arrested Martinez.

Immediately afterwards, members of Group T-41 searched Martinez’s residence, a basement apartment located at 3226 82nd Street, and recovered two more kilograms of cocaine packaged as candy, a kilogram of powdered cocaine, a kilo press, drug ledgers and $12,000 in cash.  

The DEA estimates the black market value of the cocaine to be approximately $2 million dollars. The defendant is expected to be arraigned Thursday in Manhattan Criminal Court.

Brennan thanked the Queens District Attorney’s Office and commended her office’s Special Investigations Bureau and the DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, including members of the DEA, New York City Police Department and the New York State Police, for their work on the case.

“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 Hunt.  “We have seen so many different concealment methods, but none more dangerous than using candy as a facade which opens doors to inadvertent overdoses if mistaken by a child.” 

“The sophisticated nature of this drug trafficking operation is evidenced by the method of concealment - cocaine wrapped in commercial-grade candy packaging,” added Brennan.  “However, the traffickers met their match yesterday when our law enforcement partners in the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force acted on accurate intelligence and effectively disrupted a major supply chain.”

“I want to commend the outstanding work done by the members of the DETF on this case,” said Beach. “With this bust, we have removed a significant amount of cocaine from the streets and put a dangerous dealer behind bars. Our continued collaboration with our federal and local law enforcement partners is a critical part of disrupting these illegal drug pipelines.”

The charges and allegations are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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