By Nicholas Rondinone, Hartford Courant
A drug task force seized an $11 million shipment of heroin at a Hartford apartment building Friday, leading to the arrest of two men authorities say were part of a huge drug distribution network based in New York City.
More than 50 pounds of heroin and $75,000 cash were seized in Hartford. Authorities said the drugs were for distribution in Connecticut and other New England states. Authorities said the two men arrested were members of a distribution network that supplied “massive” amounts of drugs worth millions of dollars throughout the Northeast.
“These arrests cut a pipeline moving huge amounts of heroin from New York City to the Northeast,” said Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan of New York. “Through cases like this one, we strive to cut off the supply of heroin at its source. Suppressing the availability of heroin, which is destroying an increasing number of lives, is a top priority.”
The two men, Guillermo Esteban Margarin, 33, and Edualin Tapia, 28, both of the Bronx, were each charged with one count of first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and one count of first-degree conspiracy, according to the office of the special narcotics prosecutor. A spokeswoman for the office said Monday night that the Hartford seizure was the group’s largest this year.
Along with the heroin and cash seized in Hartford, about 20 pounds of cocaine, several guns and additional cash were seized in the Bronx.
The Hartford seizure resulted from task force surveillance Thursday at 3873 Orloff Ave. in the Bronx, authorities said. Task force members watched as two men with suitcases and a white box entered a building that was suspected to be a place where drugs were processed and packaged.
Members of the task force said they learned Friday that a Jeep Cherokee linked to the suspected drug organization was heading toward Connecticut. The group, with help from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Haven and Hartford offices, also learned an Acura RDX was accompanying the Jeep. The task force members followed the two vehicles to Hartford.
The vehicles parked in a lot at a building at 24 Bulkeley Ave. Authorities said they watched as Margarin got out of the Jeep and Tapia got out of the Acura. Tapia removed a white box from the Jeep and headed toward the building, authorities said.
Agents and officers walked past the man with the box and reported seeing brick-shaped packages inside, authorities said.
When officers entered the apartment, they saw people at a sink getting ready to wash a white substance down the drain, authorities said. After securing the area, the officers found 13 kilograms of heroin — about 29 pounds — in an open closet in the apartment. The packages in the box were determined to be heroin totaling 10 kilograms, or about 22 pounds.
Following the seizure in Hartford, the prosecutors searched apartments at 3873 Orloff Ave. and 1874 Patterson Ave. in the Bronx. Officers seized 3 kilograms of cocaine and a small amount of heroin at the Orloff Avenue address and a kilogram of heroin and $10,000 cash at the Patterson Avenue address, authorities said. A car at the location had more than 4 kilograms of cocaine inside, they said.
A search warrant was also obtained on Saturday for a storage unit in the Bronx which was found to contain 2 kilograms of cocaine; about 200 MDMA pills, or “molly;” and several guns.
“Law enforcement has created a united front to find the heroin sources responsible for abetting the heroin threat facing our communities, and this seizure reinforces law enforcement’s efforts at all levels to combat the abuse of heroin and the devastating consequences that inevitably follow,” said James J. Hunt, acting special agent in charge of the DEA’s New York division.
Tapia and Margarin were in custody in Hartford pending extradition proceedings.