5 arrested in scheme to mail cocaine to New York in children's' lunchboxes

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Five people are charged in connection to what prosecutors call a "sophisticated scheme" that involved cocaine in children's lunch boxes and school binders.

Officials say drugs were mailed from Puerto Rico to addresses in New York City and Massachusetts over the course of more than a year.

As a result, more than 66 pounds of cocaine was smuggled in.

Two of the suspects, 36-year-old Carlos Duarte and 41-year-old Alexis Garcia, worked in the music industry as managers of recording artists in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Both are New York residents and officials say they used work travel as a cover for their drug-related business.

Raul Sweeney, 27, Wesley Coddington, 43, and Bryan Centeno-Rosado, 23, were also arrested on multiple charges.

"At the height of the ongoing pandemic, these alleged drug traffickers hid behind jobs in the music industry and shipped their cocaine in children's lunch boxes. But our NYPD investigators and partners in law enforcement weren't fooled and today's important indictment from the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor shows our unwavering commitment to keep New Yorkers from being victimized by crime," said Police Commissioner Dermot Shea.

Officials say the packages were shipped to residential addresses in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Greene County as well as to Massachusetts.

"Cocaine continues to be an illegal drug anchored in New York," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan. "This drug conspiracy is representative of how a trafficking organization capitalized during COVID by using mail services to transport illegal drugs into New York."

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