A Queens man and a New Jersey woman have been arrested for allegedly conspiring to distribute dangerous designer drugs, including a synthetic opioid several times more potent than morphine that has been blamed for at least one overdose death, authorities said Tuesday.
The arrests stem from an ongoing investigation that culminated with a huge raid at a luxury waterfront high-rise in Long Island City, thought to be the site of a synthetic drug lab, earlier in the day.
Prosecutors say the apartment at 4545Center Boulevard was where Parker allegedly cooked up designer drugs and synthetic opioids several times more potent than morphine. On Tuesday afternoon, nearby residents like Libby Vilner were shocked.
"It's making me uneasy right now because I didn't know this was happening," she said.
Another raid was simultaneously conducted in Farmingdale, New Jersey, where the female suspect lives.
According to a criminal complaint, 34-year-old Brian Parker allegedly manufactured and distributed controlled substance analogues, drugs that are "substantially similar" to controlled substances, and other illegal chemicals through two internet-based companies he controlled. The substances sold through his websites were linked to a 2016 overdose death in Wisconsin.
An autopsy revealed the 37-year-old man who overdosed died of acute intoxication due to the combined effects of a substance called U-47700, a synthetic opioid, and Etizolam, a synthetic, fast-acting depressant.
Authorities investigating the man's death found several packages addressed to him, at least one of which contained full glass vials labeled U-47700. They also found multiple invoices indicating the man had been ordering U-47700 and other substances from a website run by Parker, the complaint says.
Officials started looking into one of Parker's websites and found he used other conspirators, including Koleski, the woman charged in the complaint, to send and receive packages for his narcotics distribution business, court documents allege. The accused conspirators got raw materials from China or elsewhere by mail, then repackaged and sent them to Parker, who manufactured those materials into the chemicals he sold online, authorities allege. Parker then allegedly sent the finished products back to the alleged conspirators, who sent them to his customers, prosecutors say.
According to the criminal complaint, Koleski allegedly shipped 218 packages from a post office in Farmingdale, New Jersey, where she lives, between June 30 and July 5. Many of those packages contained the designer drugs Parker allegedly sold, investigators say. A court-authorized search and seizure of about 75 of those packages revealed Parker and Koleski were also distributing designer drugs similar to a synthetic stimulant and PCP.
Parker lives at the Long Island City condo tower on Center Boulevard swarmed by law enforcement Tuesday. Chopper 4 showed at least 20 law enforcement vehicles at the scene. Some officers were seen bringing Hazmat suits inside and other hauled off boxes of evidence from the family-friendly building on the waterfront of the recently gentrified area.
According to Streeteasy, the 41-story building has 820 units and amenities including a 24-hour concierge, valet parking and a gym.
Local Lauren Marciano said the raid was shocking. "There is a lot of families here and young professionals, I would never think something like that would happen here."
"It's not your typical day in Long Island City, that's for sure."
Parker and Koleski face charges of conspiring to distribute controlled substance analogues, and distributing and possession with intent to distribute the controlled substance analogues. Each charge in the complaint carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
Both appeared in federal court in Newark Tuesday but bail was not determined. Both will remain in custody pending the upcoming bail proceedings.