Authorities confiscated nearly 195 pounds of fentanyl in a pair of busts that prosecutors said included one sting that netted 32 million lethal doses of the drug, an opioid 50 times stronger than heroin.
Four people were arrested after the busts in August and September that also netted 75 pounds of heroin and cocaine. Bridget G. Brennan, New York City's special narcotics prosecutor, said the busts come as overdose deaths hit an all-time high in New York's five boroughs in 2016.
"The sheer volume of fentanyl pouring into the city is shocking," she said. "It's not only killing a record number of people in New York City, but the city is used as a hub of regional distribution for a lethal substance that is taking thousands of lives throughout the Northeast."
In the first bust, on Aug. 1, 2017, police and federal agents seized more than 140 pounds of fentanyl — the most in the city's history — after watching Rogelio Alvardo-Robles and Blanca Flores-Solis receive what appeared to to be a package of cocaine from an unknown trafficker at a Walmart in Manhawkin, New Jersey. Authorities said that after the exchange, they went back to an apartment building in Queens' Kew Gardens neighborhood, where a DEA agent approached them and seized the alleged drugs.
Afterward, authorities said they got a search warrant for their apartment and found 97 packages of drugs in suitcases and a purse in a bedroom; 84 of the packages were either filled with pure fentanyl or heroin laced with the powerful drug. Authorities said the trove could have had enough doses to kill 32 million people from overdoses.
Then, on Sept. 5, authorities seized another 53 pounds of fentanyl-laced heroin and another 2 pounds of uncut fentanyl during a stop near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. That bust came after detectives and DEA agents watched Edwin Guzman and Manuel Rivera-Santana pick up a duffel bag from men inside a tractor trailer and drove back into New York City.
After the stop police got a search warrant to open the locked duffel, and found 25 1-kilogram bricks with the drugs.
The four people arrested in the two busts each face criminal drug possession charges; Guzman and Rivera-Santana also face conspiracy counts.
Attorney information for the men wasn't immediately available.
Prosecutors say the drugs are worth a street value of $30 million.
Of the roughly 64,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2016, more than 20,000 involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.