Defendant Charged in Connection with Narcotics Manufacturing and Distribution Center
200,000 Pills, Fentanyl, Methamphetamine, and Cocaine Seized in Washington Heights Search
The photograph shows various substances seized.
NEW YORK CITY – Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Frank A. Tarentino III, the Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Ivan J. Arvelo, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations, announced today the filing of a Complaint in Manhattan federal court charging Juan Efren Paulino with conspiracy to distribute narcotics and distribution of narcotics. Paulino was arrested last night in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. Today, Paulino was presented before United States Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker and detained.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Last night’s seizure not only removed substantial quantities of deadly narcotics from the streets, but it also hit drug dealers in their pockets and potentially saved the lives of countless New Yorkers suffering from addiction. Thanks to the work of our law enforcement officers, another alleged narcotics trafficker’s operation has been disrupted.”
DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank A. Tarentino III said: “This pill mill was a ticking time bomb for New Yorkers. With the amount of fentanyl seized, potentially countless lethal doses were taken off the streets. This multi-million-dollar seizure was in a prime location for distribution as the operation was being pumped out of the basement of an apartment building near major thoroughfares. I applaud the hard work and resolve of the agents and officers who worked on this investigation.”
HSI Special Agent in Charge Ivan J. Arvelo said: As alleged, Juan Paulino, who has ties to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, is a major a source for fentanyl pill distribution in the New York metropolitan area. Due to the tireless dedication of HSI New York’s El Dorado Task Force, approximately 210,000 multi-colored fentanyl and methamphetamine pills, 25 kilograms of fentanyl and methamphetamine, and five pounds of raw methamphetamine have been taken off the streets of New York City. HSI New York remains dedicated to apprehending those who peddle poison in our communities.”
As alleged in the Complaint filed today in Manhattan federal court:
On or about May 31, 2023, law enforcement officers executed a search of the basement of a residential building located in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. During the course of that search, they encountered Paulino and large quantities of illegal narcotics as well as manufacturing and distribution equipment used to press illegal narcotics into pill form. In particular, law enforcement officers encountered three commercial-grade pill presses, one commercial mixer, approximately 200,000 pills, and blocks, baggies, and buckets of powder.
Although lab testing is pending for the pills and powders discovered during the search, preliminary spectrometry tests reveal that the powders have tested positive for, among other things, fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine.
In post-arrest statements, Paulino stated that he was in the basement of the building to obtain a sample of cocaine to give to someone. Additionally, a preliminary review of Paulino’s cellphone, seized upon his arrest, reveals numerous photographs of what appear to be narcotics, including many of the same types of narcotics found during the search.
Paulino, 52, of New York, New York, is charged in Count One with conspiracy to distribute narcotics and in Count Two with narcotics distribution. Both Count One and Count Two carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The statutory minimum and maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the El Dorado Task Force, which is comprised of law enforcement officers from the DEA, HSI, and the New York City Police Department, in connection with this investigation.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Maggie Lynaugh is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.