Law Enforcement Arrested Three Defendants and Seized Approximately 120 Kilograms of Cocaine, $1.3 Million in Cash, and a Firearm
NEW YORK – Ray Donovan, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration New York Division, and Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York that Adriano Rodriguez-Diaz, Ironellys Paulino-Nolasco, and Robert Nunez were charged in a criminal complaint filed in Manhattan federal court with narcotics importation, narcotics trafficking, and firearms offenses. Rodriguez-Diaz and Paulino-Nolasco were apprehended on March 12, 2021 and will be presented this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave. Nunez remains at large.
DEA Special Agent in Charge Raymond P. Donovan said: “A stakeout turned into a three-day enforcement operation taking six million dollars’ worth of cocaine sales away from alleged drug traffickers while saving lives. Over one hundred kilograms of cocaine is significant in many ways since CDC warned of a 26.5% increase in overdose deaths involving cocaine in a 12- month period ending May 2020. Law enforcement will continue to rally our resources to seize illegal drugs responsible for record-breaking overdose rates.”
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “This investigation has yielded the seizure of over 120 kilograms of cocaine and over $1 million in suspected proceeds from illegal narcotics trafficking, disrupting the operation of this alleged drug trafficking organization. Thanks to our partners at the DEA, this massive shipment of potentially deadly narcotics has been kept off the streets.”
As alleged in the Complaint:
Since in or about late 2020, the DEA has been investigating the importation and distribution of narcotics through a produce warehouse in New Jersey called “Sweet Produce” (the “Warehouse”). Cocaine was shipped from a company in the Dominican Republic to the Warehouse. Between March 9, 2021 and March 12, 2021, DEA agents observed members of the conspiracy receive and move shipments from the Warehouse to other locations, including an apartment in the Bronx.
On March 10, 2021, agents seized approximately one kilogram of cocaine from a car driven by Nunez. On March 11, 2021, agents seized approximately 20 kilograms of cocaine and $1.3 million in United States currency from the apartment in the Bronx. On March 12, 2021, agents seized approximately 100 kilograms of cocaine from a produce van as it left the Warehouse, and also seized a firearm from the Warehouse. The Produce Van was en route to a safe house in New Jersey that contained approximately one kilogram of cocaine, a cocaine press, and packaging materials.
Adriano Rodriguez-Diaz, 41, Ironellys Paulino-Nolasco, 37, and Robert Nunez, 50, are charged with conspiring to import at least five kilograms of cocaine into the United States, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison, and conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison. Rodriguez-Diaz is also charged with possession of a firearm during and in relation to the narcotics importation and trafficking conspiracies, which carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of five years in prison.
The maximum potential sentences described above are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants would be determined by the assigned judge.
Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of the DEA, New York Division. Ms. Strauss also thanked the El Dorado Task Force of the United States Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, the New York City Police Department and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force New York Strike Force, Financial Investigation Team comprising agents and officers of the DEA, NYPD, Bergen County Prosecutors Office, Fort Lee Police Department, Teaneck Police Department, Hillsdale Police Department, Northvale Police Department, Palisades Interstate Parkway Police, and Closter Police Department for its assistance in the investigation.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Danielle M. Kudla and Alexander Li are in charge of the prosecution.
As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described herein should be treated as an allegation as to the defendants charged in the Complaint.