April 05, 2018
Contact: Erin Mulvey
Phone Number: (212) 337-2906
Six Charged In Multi-state Cocaine Trafficking Scheme: Upper West Side Apartment Served As Base Of Operation
NEW YORK - James J. Hunt, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement (DEA) New York Division, Bridget G. Brennan, New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, and George P. Beach II, Superintendent of the New York State Police, announced today the indictment of six individuals in connection with a scheme to distribute kilogram quantities of cocaine each week in New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania and to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars.
An indictment filed by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor is the result of an eight-month investigation by DEA Long Island Division Office Task Force Group D-13, with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., reviewed and submitted wiretap applications for court authorization. Five arrests occurred on March 6, 2018 and a sixth arrest on April 3, 2018. Multiple kilograms of cocaine, marijuana and approximately $270,000 cash were seized during the investigation.
Arraignments on the indictment are scheduled for today before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Abraham Clott, Part 61, 111 Centre Street. Charges include Conspiracy in the Second Degree, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First and Third Degrees, Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Second Degree, Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia in the Second Degree and Money Laundering in the Second Degree.
The investigation centered on Gerardo Gonzalez, an alleged cocaine distributor who operated from an apartment at 472 Columbus Avenue in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Through a variety of investigative tools, including wiretaps and physical surveillance, agents and investigators identified and charged five other individuals associated with Gonzalez’s drug network.
Among those charged are alleged drug dealers Eric Espinal, of Fordham Manor in the Bronx, Socrates Santana, of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Vance Hall, of Pittsburgh, and Jose Martinez, of Jersey City, and alleged money launderer Xiongbin Zhao, of Brooklyn.
The investigation revealed that Gonzalez met with drug customers and suppliers in the vicinity of the Columbus Avenue apartment and conducted alleged narcotics transactions on the street and inside vehicles. Agents and investigators observed Gonzalez hand off bags of suspected narcotics to customers in vehicles with out of state license plates from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Additionally, Martinez, an alleged cocaine supplier for Gonzalez, was observed meeting with Gonzalez in the Upper West Side in order to sell Gonzalez kilogram quantities of cocaine.
As alleged in the indictment, Gonzalez and his co-defendants discussed quantities of narcotics for sale and prices in phone conversations. They are estimated to have sold up to 10 kilograms of cocaine per week, charging approximately $30,000 per kilogram.
In order to conceal the illicit nature of his money, Gonzalez met Zhao in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn on at least two occasions in order to deliver large quantities of cash. Over the course of two meetings in December of 2017 and January of 2018, Zhao allegedly received more than $350,000 cash from Gonzalez. On January 3, 2018, agents and investigators observed Gonzalez meet with Zhao outside 1353 76th Street in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Agents stopped Zhao’s vehicle following the meeting and recovered a duffle bag containing over $180,000 cash.
As detailed in the indictment, Gonzalez appeared to be conscious of law enforcement surveillance. On January 31, 2018, in a phone call with Espinal, Gonzalez said he believed he saw surveillance by the “FBI or DEA.”
A court authorized search of Gonzalez’s apartment at 472 Columbus Avenue, Apt. 2C, on March 6, 2018 yielded two kilograms of cocaine imprinted with a (more than four pounds), additional bags of cocaine, and over 30 grams of heroin mixed with methamphetamine and xylazine, a horse tranquilizer, and multiple non-controlled substances. Also recovered were $60,000 cash, a money counter and drug packaging equipment. A second court authorized search that same day at the residence of Espinal, 2985 Botanical Square, Apt. 3J, in the Bronx, yielded a pound of cocaine, four pounds of marijuana and $30,000 cash.
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan thanked her office’s Special Investigations Bureau and Investigators Unit, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’(DEA) Long Island Division Office Task Force Group D-13 and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
The DEA’s Long Island Division Office Task Force Group D-13 comprises agents and officers of the DEA, the New York State Police, the Nassau County Police Department, the Suffolk County Police Department, the Nassau District Attorney’s Office and the National Guard.
DEA Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt stated, “What do a money launderer in Brooklyn, a cocaine distributor in Pittsburgh and a street drug dealer in the Fordham section of the Bronx have in common? They are three of the five characters who conspired with Gerardo 'Jerry' Gonzalez, a major drug trafficker operating out of an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. This investigation dismantled a significant cocaine supply ring in our city with ties to New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, and I commend the investigators and agents for their diligent work.”
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said, “As this case demonstrates, no neighborhood is too sedate for drug traffickers. After his mother passed away, Gerardo Gonzalez is alleged to have seized the opportunity to turn her Upper West Side apartment into the operational base for a multistate ring selling shipments of cocaine worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. As we have seen before, a familiar, quiet residential neighborhood is attractive real estate to a drug dealer who wants to lay low, avoid detection by law enforcement and escape the notice of stick up crews who might view him as an easy mark for robbery.”
New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, “This case speaks to the tremendous interagency coordination and cooperation necessary to get illegal drugs off our streets. As a result of the commitment among our law enforcement partners, a major drug trafficking and money laundering operation has been shut down, and a significant amount of drugs and cash have been seized. These drugs destroy communities and put lives at risk, and I want to thank our members and law enforcement partners for their tenacious dedication to tracking illegal drugs and intercepting them at their source before they can be distributed on our streets."
The charges and allegations are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.