A major New York City drug trafficker and 12 others were nabbed in a citywide, multi-agency drug bust following a year-long investigation into narcotics and gun trafficking in Brooklyn and Queens, officials announced Saturday.
During the lengthy investigation, an undercover officer purchased large amounts of fentanyl, cocaine and heroin with a street value of more than $3 million, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.
In total, 33 pounds of cocaine and 25 pounds of fentanyl mixtures were seized along with an assault weapon and three guns.
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Law enforcement identified 41-year-old Nelson Cruz as the ringleader of the operation. He is charged with operating as a major trafficker.
Cruz and 12 others were arrested in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx on charges contained in two indictments and two criminal court complaints that were filed on Saturday.
According to the DEA, roughly one year ago, defendant Manuel Suriel allegedly began selling cocaine at a restaurant in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn. Officials said Suriel introduced several other alleged drug traffickers to a “co-representative of Cruz” about selling narcotics in Queens and Brooklyn.
Suriel and the Cruz co-rep made their first sale to an undercover cop in October 2021. The second sale was for 100 grams of fentanyl in exchange for $5,100 in a Target parking lot in College Point, Queens.
By January 2021, the investigation shifted its attention from Suriel to Cruz and his organization, which is based out of the Richmond Hill and South Ozone neighborhoods in Queens. Cruz and his gang, investigators found, would regularly make large-scale narcotics sales in the $10,000-$16,000 range.
A wiretap investigation revealed Cruz was conspiring with other defendants to distribute narcotics throughout the city. Cruz was receiving imported shipments of cocaine from Puerto Rico and fentanyl from Mexico. By February, he was dealing guns, officials said.
The first arrest was made on June 7 and the final on June 15 after police executed search warrants at locations in Brooklyn and Queens and the Bronx that yielded the massive amounts of drugs and several guns.
“Dismantling fentanyl trafficking organizations is our priority because out of all illegal drugs, fentanyl is killing the most people. This investigation highlights how drug traffickers are armed and dangerous, selling drugs and guns on our city streets,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarantino III said in a statement.
The New York Drug Enforcement Task Force Group T-23 and the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Investigators Unit led the investigation, officials said.