Six individuals have been arrested and charged last month and Tuesday for their roles in a drug ring that distributed kilogram quantities of cocaine each week in New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania and laundered hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The investigation centered on Gerardo Gonzalez, an alleged cocaine distributor who operated from an apartment at 472 Columbus Avenue in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Through a variety of investigative tools, including wiretaps and physical surveillance, agents and investigators identified and charged five other individuals associated with Gonzalez’s drug network.
Among those are alleged drug dealers Eric Espinal, of Fordham Manor in the Bronx, Socrates Santana, of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Vance Hall, of Pittsburgh, and Jose Martinez, of Jersey City, and alleged money launderer Xiongbin Zhao, of Brooklyn.
Gonzalez met with drug customers and suppliers in the vicinity of the Columbus Avenue apartment and conducted alleged narcotics transactions on the street and inside vehicles. Agents and investigators observed Gonzalez hand off bags of suspected narcotics to customers in vehicles with out of state license plates from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Additionally, Martinez, an alleged cocaine supplier for Gonzalez, was observed meeting with Gonzalez in the Upper West Side in order to sell Gonzalez kilogram quantities of cocaine.
According to the indictment, Gonzalez and his partners discussed quantities of narcotics for sale and prices in phone conversations. They are estimated to have sold up to 10 kilograms of cocaine per week, charging approximately $30,000 per kilogram.
In order to conceal the illicit nature of his money, Gonzalez met Zhao in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn on at least two occasions in order to deliver large quantities of cash. Over the course of two meetings in December of 2017 and January of 2018, Zhao allegedly received more than $350,000 cash from Gonzalez. On January 3, 2018, agents and investigators observed Gonzalez meet with Zhao outside 1353 76th Street in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Agents stopped Zhao’s vehicle following the meeting and recovered a duffle bag containing over $180,000 cash.
A court authorized search of Gonzalez’s apartment at 472 Columbus Avenue, Apt. 2C, on March 6, 2018 yielded two kilograms of cocaine imprinted with a crown (more than four pounds) - see photo above, additional bags of cocaine, and over 30 grams of heroin mixed with methamphetamine and xylazine, a horse tranquilizer, and multiple non-controlled substances. Also recovered were $60,000 cash, a money counter and drug packaging equipment. A second court authorized search that same day at the residence of Espinal, 2985 Botanical Square, Apt. 3J, in the Bronx, yielded a pound of cocaine, four pounds of marijuana and $30,000 cash.
DEA Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt stated, “What do a money launderer in Brooklyn, a cocaine distributor in Pittsburgh and a street drug dealer in the Fordham section of the Bronx have in common? They are three of the five characters who conspired with Gerardo “Jerry” Gonzalez, a major drug trafficker operating out of an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. This investigation dismantled a significant cocaine supply ring in our city with ties to New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, and I commend the investigators and agents for their diligent work.”
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said, “As this case demonstrates, no neighborhood is too sedate for drug traffickers. After his mother passed away, Gerardo Gonzalez is alleged to have seized the opportunity to turn her Upper West Side apartment into the operational base for a multistate ring selling shipments of cocaine worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. As we have seen before, a familiar, quiet residential neighborhood is attractive real estate to a drug dealer who wants to lay low, avoid detection by law enforcement and escape the notice of stick up crews who might view him as an easy mark for robbery.”
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