By Sasha Gonzales
Six people have been arrested in connection with a $7 million heroin and fentanyl distribution network operating out of a Kingsbridge apartment, authorities said.
Livo Valdez, 25, Jaslin Baldera, 24, Frederick Baldera, 23, Frandi Ledema, 23, Diego Tejada, 21, and Pafraimy Antonio, 21, are charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance and criminal use of drug paraphernalia.
All were released on their own recognizance Wednesday and are due back in court Feb. 27.
Acting on intelligence gathered during a long-term investigation, members of the DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force and investigators with the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor said they conducted several days of intensive physical and video surveillance at a seven-story apartment building at 2559 Sedgwick Avenue.
Their operation culminated in the seizure of about 750,000 glassine envelopes of suspected heroin and fentanyl from an apartment, prosecutors said.
When agents and officers entered the residence, they found the six defendants in the midst of packaging powder-filled glassine envelopes stamped with the brand “Fire” into bundles, authorities said.
Hundreds of thousands of glassine envelopes covered two table tops and overflowed from plastic bins and cardboard boxes on the floor and a bed, prosecutors said.
The DEA estimates the black market value of the suspected drugs at about $7 million.
“The sheer volume of heroin and fentanyl packages assembled in a small apartment just off the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx is shocking,” said the city’s special narcotics prosecutor, Bridget Brennan. “Even veteran narcotics investigators were surprised by the output of this packaging operation, which was run out of a nondescript apartment in the borough afflicted by the city’s highest rate of overdose death.”
The Bronx led New York City in overdose deaths in 2018, with 391 people succumbing here after using narcotics, records show.
Bronx residents also had the highest rate of overdose death compared with all other boroughs. The rate increased by 9 percent from 31.4 per 100,000 residents in 2017 to 34.1 per 100,000 residents in 2018, according to the data compiled by New York City’s Department of Health.
Only East Harlem saw a higher death rate citywide, the data shows.