A Westchester County man was among more than two dozen busted by ICE on drug and gambling charges following a wiretap investigation.
Thirty-two people were arrested Friday on drug and gambling charges following an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in New York and the NYPD.
The investigation began with cocaine and heroin trafficking and ultimately led police to a "sophisticated illegal gambling operation that catered to a clientele of New York City professionals."
Officials said that the investigation “uncovered a large-scale alleged cocaine and heroin distribution network centered in the East Village and a related gambling operation located in a busy commercial district near West 11th Street and Avenue of the Americas in the West Village.”
Among those arrested and charged include Yonkers resident Dante Rodriguez, who allegedly supplied drugs to New York residents. Arrests were made in Manhattan, Massachusetts, Georgia and Florida on Florida as part of the investigation.
Early on Friday, NYPD officers and Homeland Security agents conducted court-authorized searches in 19 locations, including the alleged drug stash location at 536 East 5th St. and the Poker House at 446 Avenue of the Americas.
Police recovered a handgun, a shotgun, an air rifle, more than two pounds of suspected cocaine, heroin, several pounds of marijuana and approximately 2,000 pills of suspected Xanax. Approximately $125,000 cash, multiple money counters, gambling records, thousands of poker chips and two vehicles were also seized during the searches.
The investigation began in November last year, as investigators looked into members of the Diaz narcotics operation, which made sales to an undercover officer.
The initial investigation led them to Anthony Delea and Lewis Castro, who were spotted in possession of drugs outside a storefront in Manhattan. This led to a four-month wiretap investigation that initially focused on the two, but eventually expanded to include nine others, including Rodriguez.
Officials said that some of the sales to undercover officers included $5,000 worth of heroin and cocaine at a time. In total, an estimated $50,000 of drugs were sold to undercover officers.
"The disparate criminal schemes orchestrated by this sophisticated and treacherous organization shared a single motivation: greed,” Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan stated. “Both the gambling operation and the narcotics enterprise charged in the indictment unsealed today preyed on vulnerabilities. While it may be tempting to discount these schemes as victimless crimes, we have learned that drug addiction often leads to overdose and gambling debt to suicide.”
Rodriguez was arrested as part of the bust and charged with two counts of conspiracy and three counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance.
"Those arrested today are not just alleged to have been involved in selling highly addictive drugs on city streets, but they are also connected with a sophisticated underground gambling operation right here in Manhattan," Special Agent in Charge of HSI New York Angel Melendez said.
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