Suspected drug mill busted blocks away from Bronx day care where child died

Authorities say the defendant carried the drugs on the subway

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Friday, September 29, 2023
Suspected drug mill busted blocks away from day care where child died
Authorities recovered over 40 pounds of suspected fentanyl in the Bronx on Tuesday evening just blocks away from the day care where a child died. CeFaan Kim has the latest details.

BRONX, New York (WABC) -- More than 40 pounds of fentanyl, worth $1.5 million on the street, has been seized from a drug mill in the Bronx located six blocks from the day care where a 1-year old child died after fentanyl exposure and three other children were taken to the hospital.

Authorities announced Thursday they arrested Juan Gabriel Herrera Vargas, who is charged with operating as a major drug trafficker, and said he carried some of the fentanyl on the subway.

According to the criminal charges, Herrera Vargas was seen this week exiting the Kingsbridge Road subway station pulling a black and tan rolling suitcase. When federal drug agents and NYPD officers approached, Herrera Vargas ran away, leaving the rolling suitcase behind.

Inside were 13 rectangular shaped kilogram bricks of suspected fentanyl.

Later that night, authorities said they spotted Herrera Vargas walking out of an apartment pulling a blue rolling suitcase with a red stripe in the middle that contained 50,000 glassines wrapped together into 25 larger packages from inside the suitcase.

Inside the apartment, agents and officers said they found one kilogram of suspected fentanyl, six pounds of loose powder, 10,000 filled glassines and materials used for packaging glassines.

"This is extremely dangerous. If this drug were to get airborne, it would cause an enormous amount of problems," DEA's Frank Tarentino said. "There were approximately 780,000 lethal doses of fentanyl in that rollaway suitcase that we interdicted."

Police say the fentanyl and packaging materials were found in the back bedroom which also contained a glass table set up for packaging narcotics and bright lights. The second bedroom contained additional paraphernalia along with a large TV monitor that was connected to a security camera to monitor the apartment.

The apartment windows were taped up with large black plastic trash bags to ensure nothing was visible from the outside, according to the city's special narcotics prosecutor.

"The conduct charged is shockingly brazen, especially in a city still grieving the overdose death of a young child who lost his life at a nearby daycare center," said special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan. "The defendant is charged with transporting almost 30 pounds of fentanyl bricks in a rolling suitcase on a subway, through a subway station, and on the sidewalks of a busy Bronx neighborhood."

Nicholas Dominici, 1, died of suspected fentanyl poisoning after his exposure at the Divino Nino day care, where investigators said they found fentanyl atop a pile of children's playmats and a trapdoor beneath the play area that contained more drugs.

"The public outcry after the poisoning death of a toddler was not enough to stop a drug mill from operating just six blocks away from that daycare," Tarentino said. "Trafficking organizations use these toxic mills to prepare and package bulk drugs into street-ready glassines for distribution for one reason- profit."

RELATED | Investigators find trap door at Bronx day care after deadly fentanyl exposure

Crime scene investigators have returned to the Bronx day care where a baby died and three others were injured after they were exposed to fentanyl. Anthony Carlo has the latest.


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