New York City authorities bust massive amount of heroin, fentanyl branded as ‘COVID-19,’ ‘Drop Dead’

·2 min read

Three drug dealers who used "COVID-19" and "Drop Dead" to mark their heroin and fentanyl loads were busted in New York City in June with $5 million worth of drugs, prosecutors said Friday.

Authorities seized nearly 40 pounds of both drugs from the suspected traffickers in two Morris Heights apartments in the Bronx and a vehicle during a June 11 bust, the New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutors office said.

"This seizure of 40 pounds of heroin and fentanyl has saved lives," Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said. "The fact that the packagers used 'COVID-19' as a brand name illustrates the callousness of these alleged traffickers, as opioid overdose deaths surged during the pandemic."

The indictment charges alleged traffickers Hector Morillo, 46; Jaime Artiles, 47; and Freddy Hernandez-Reyes, 44, with operating as a major trafficker in possession of a controlled substance in the first and third degrees. They were all arraigned Friday.

On June 11, agents with the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force Group T-22 were surveilling the two apartments at 1730 Montgomery Avenue. At 5:15 a.m., they observed Artiles park a Honda Pilot, followed by Reyes carrying a weighted-down bag out of the building to the car.

Reyes then re-entered the apartment building with a light blue bag. Agents followed Artiles and the vehicle with the weighted-down bag in the back as he stopped at the Interstate 95 lower level near the George Washington Bridge.

Around 10:30 a.m., agents allegedly saw Morillo circle the block around the building before entering. He and Reyes were both seen leaving unit 4G. They then exited unit 6E shortly afterward, authorities said.

Reyes was carrying three plastic bags, including one appearing to contain stamps and envelopes used for branding and packaging doses of drugs, officials said. The agents stopped both men and searched the bags, which allegedly contained 1.5 kilograms of heroin and fentanyl.

Morillo also had an ID card issued by Dominican Republic National Investigations, which prosecutors believe was fraudulently obtained. Agents obtained a search warrant later that day for both apartments where they found heroin and fentanyl in brick and powder form, thousands of packages of glassine envelopes containing a mixture of heroin and fentanyl, packaging equipment, stamps, grinders and scales, authorities said.

The results of DEA Laboratory analysis on some of the substances seized in the case are pending, officials said.

The stamps were branded with names like "COVID-19" and Drop Dead" below an image of a skull.

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"Here in New York City, 75% of all drug overdoses are linked to fentanyl. Fentanyl is death," said Ray Donovan, the Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in charge.

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