By Kevin Deutsch
The Bronx’s opioid scourge hit home for the district attorney’s office last week when a DA paralegal accidentally dropped more than three dozen baggies of heroin and crack cocaine in the lobby of office headquarters on East 161st Street, according to court records and authorities.
Jennifer Monge, 27, spilled the contents of her purse as she arrived at work about 7:50 a.m. Wednesday, sending bags containing 16 glassine baggies of heroin, as well as two dozen bags of crack, sliding across the lobby floor—all in plain sight of front-desk security, authorities said.
Monge was arrested and charged with two counts of misdemeanor criminal possession of a controlled substance, records show. She was released without bail following her arraignment in Bronx Criminal Court, and is due back in court Aug. 13.
Monge is being represented by the Legal Aid Society. A special prosecutor is expected to be assigned her case if the prosecution continues, in order to avoid any perceived conflicts of interest stemming from her job in the DA’s office, authorities said.
Monge, who could not be reached for comment, has a prior arrest involving a drug charge in 2012, records show. The disposition of that case was not immediately clear.
Authorities said she will likely qualify for a diversion program that may allow her to avoid a criminal conviction in her current case.
Amid a nationwide epidemic of opioid overdose and addiction, the Bronx recorded 363 drug overdose deaths—more than any other borough— in 2017, the last year for which complete data is available.
Rates of fatal overdose were also highest among Bronx residents compared with other boroughs. The neighborhood hardest hit has been the South Bronx, where data shows the rate of fatal drug overdoses in 2017 was higher than all but one state: West Virginia. The South Bronx is also the poorest congressional district in the country.
Overall, 1,487 unintentional drug overdose deaths were recorded across the city in 2017 compared with 1,425 in 2016, city records show. Nearly six in ten of those deaths involved fentanyl.
Data shows the plague of heroin and pain pill addiction has spread across all demographic groups, impacting rich, middle-class, and poor alike.