Five individuals were charged with smuggling “millions of dollars” in cocaine using school binders and children’s lunchboxes.
A press release from the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York reveals that five individuals were involved in a “sophisticated conspiracy” to ship millions of dollars worth of cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York and Massachusetts through the U.S. Postal Service.
The packages intercepted by investigators amounted to a total of over 30 kilograms of cocaine, amounting to over 66 pounds.
Carlos Duarte, 36, and Alexis Garcia, 41, are accused of being the “ringleaders” of the operation, with Wesley Coddington, 43, Raul Sweeney, 27, and Bryan Centeno-Rosado, 23, all allegedly being involved in the operation.
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Duarte was charged as the major trafficker of the operation, while the others are being charged with the sale and possession of a controlled substance and conspiracy.
Authorities say in the press release that fingerprint analysis linked the individuals charged to the packages.
“These USPS packages contained a total of eight kilograms of cocaine concealed inside children’s lunchboxes and a zip binder. The lunchboxes bore images of popular cartoon characters,” the press release states.
The drug smuggling operation allegedly ran from May of 2020 through July of 2021.
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Duarte and Garcia also allegedly worked “as managers representing recording artists in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic” and traveled frequently as part of the operation.
Officials said in the release that U.S. Postal Inspectors identified “several hallmarks of packages” sent by the individuals, revealing a “more extensive pattern” with 100 packages shipped dating back to May of 2020.
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“Packages were shipped to residential addresses in New York State, including in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Greene County, as well as to Massachusetts. Often, the named recipients were either fictitious or were actual individuals not associated with the address. Frequently, the return addresses were in New York, despite the packages originating in Puerto Rico. At least two packages bore the return address of a luxury clothing boutique in Upper Manhattan,” the release states.
When officials arrested Duarte at his home in New York, they found cocaine and “multiple cell phones.” Garcia was arrested near a recording studio in New York City and was found with $12,000 on hand, while another search of his home found $32,000 in cash.