A global pandemic couldn’t bust up a Brooklyn cocaine ring — but law enforcement agents did the job.
Ten alleged peddlers were charged Monday for selling hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cocaine in three Brooklyn neighborhoods at inflated prices during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring, prosecutors announced.
According to Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York Bridget Brennan, the drug ring’s leaders — Miguel Rivera, 42, of Myrtle Avenue in Glendale, and Alberto Bota, 55, of Brooklyn — took advantage of the shortened supply of street drugs, and users, during the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic created cocaine supply shortages that allowed alleged high-level drug traffickers Rivera and Bota to price gouge their desperate clientele,” Brennan said. “For them, the crisis provided an opportunity to charge some of the highest prices for cocaine seen in New York City in recent years.”
Law enforcement agents — including the NYPD Brooklyn North Overdose Squad and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’s office — worked together to break up the lucrative drug ring through an investigation that dated back to August 2019.
The probe came following a nonfatal overdose at the Farragut Houses public housing complex. Investigators linked the overdose to a street-level organization known for pushing heroin, fentanyl and cocaine in and around Park Slope, Gowanus and Sunset Park.
In the months that followed, undercover officers made more than 20 purchases of narcotics, totaling $16,000, from peddlers at the Farragut Houses and near the Barclays Center.
The investigation also found that Rivera and Bota worked as a team to purchase kilograms of cocaine multiple times each month, meeting up frequently in Park Slope and Gowanus to arrange deals. They paid up to $50,000 per kilogram of cocaine — up to 50 percent higher than the typical street price for the powder — and then flipped it at an additional 3-5 percent markup to customers.
Through wiretaps and surveillance, detectives learned that Rivera had bought at least five kilograms of cocaine at $250,000. Most of the purchases were made in Brooklyn, and on two occasions, he allegedly bought cocaine from another dealer, Angel Rodriguez, in Ridgewood, Queens.
Law enforcement agents also observed a cocaine transaction between Bota and Brooklyn’s Jose Lopez Santos that took place on July 8 at Bota’s residence on Union Street. Both suspects, along with Rivera, were spotted entering and exiting the location respectively.
Police later stopped Lopez Santos’ car and found a black bag containing $41,000 in his possession. Cops also stopped Rivera and found a combined 799 grams of cocaine located with the trunk and center console of his vehicle.
Bota was also picked up that evening and found to have in his vehicle 150 grams of cocaine along with a quantity of heroin, a scale and $4,000 in cash.
A week later, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at a storage unit in Sunset Park that Rivera used. They recovered from the unit two defaced firearms, a bulletproof vest, ammunition and $80,000 in cash. Another $83,000 in cash was found in Rivera’s Queens apartment.
The ten suspects arrested were variously charged with operating as a major trafficker, conspiracy, criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of a firearm and criminally using drug paraphernalia.
The other suspects arrested in connection with the ring are: Luis Rodriguez, 42, of Staten Island; Angel Rodriguez, 42, of Ridgewood, Queens; Bruce Williams, 42, of Brooklyn; Jason Perez, 34, of Hazlet, NJ; Kevin Pedraza, 30, of Brooklyn; Rafael Lopez, 34, of Brooklyn; and Raymond Pedraza, 30, of Brooklyn.
This story first appeared on AMNY.com.