Suspects charged with stashing drugs in Manhattan apartments

Marcus Solis reports on $12 million worth of heroin and crystal meth seized from a Washington Heights apartment.
April 16, 2014 3:19:14 PM PDT
Authorities say they have broken up a sophisticated drug trafficking operation based in an apartment building in Manhattan.

The apartments allegedly concealed $12 million in heroin and $500,000 in "crystal meth".

Three people have been arrested. Prosecutors say the ring was based in two apartments at a building at 111 Wadsworth Avenue in the Washington Heights section.

The location offered the traffickers easy access to out of state and Long Island transportation routes via the George Washington Bridge, Interstate 95 and the RFK Triborough Bridge, according to authorities.

The suspects are Pablo Paulino, Pedro Abreu and Janeison Garcia, who were arrested after several days of surveillance, where investigators say they saw them repeatedly entering and leaving carrying bags.

A search of a safe inside a bedroom of one of the apartments revealed approximately $120,000. Investigators and agents discovered a "trap" or hidden compartment behind the wall of the bathroom, accessible by removing panel of four tiles.

The trap contained approximately 17 pounds of methamphetamine and shoe soles that had been ripped from several pairs of women's footwear. Traffickers often hide drugs in hollowed out soles.

In another apartment, investigators found about 11 kilos of heroin hidden inside a trap in a kitchen cabinet.

The trap was accessed through a sliding panel on the back wall of the cabinet, which was visible only after the shelves of the cabinet had been removed.

Approximately 5 kilos of heroin were tucked between a mattress and box spring of a bed in a bedroom.

A TV stand with tower storage components in the living room contained another kilo of heroin.

"I think it's insane, it's like Breaking Bad, that it's that close, it's right down the hall. I think it's kind of crazy, it's a lot of money," said building resident Sterling Johnson.

Agents from the Long Island DEA office, along with police from Nassau, Suffolk, and the NYPD took part in the bust.

An apartment on the 10th floor was set up with an elaborate surveillance camera system able to monitor anyone in the hallway.

"The whole operation was quite sophisticated," said special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan. "We're making very large seizures of heroin with unfortunate regularity now, and I think it reflects the increasing popularity of heroin."