Feds bust alleged gang accused of tri-state drug pilfering spree

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Federal prosecutors on Wednesday unveiled a sprawling 18-count indictment charging 12 men with an enormous criminal conspiracy to rob pharmacies all over the tri-state area of controlled substances and then flip them on the open market.

The men, allegedly part of a gang called the “Route Boys,” were hit in the Eastern District of New York on June 28 with conspiracy to commit burglary, distribute drugs, and rob banks, along with various firearms charges. Prosecutors requested that the defendants be held without bail.

“For two years the defendants went on a crime spree targeting local businesses throughout the tri-state, stealing money and pharmaceuticals to fuel their illegal drug business, and frequently using firearms to commit their crimes,” said US Attorney Breon Peace in a statement. “This office is working tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to protect local businesses and put a stop to those who seek to endanger our communities from drugs or guns.”

The alleged gang members — seven from Brooklyn, three from Queens, and two from Long Island — are believed to have committed over 100 burglaries spanning three states. Prosecutors say they started their interstate crime spree in late 2020 by robbing local small businesses like bodegas, check cashing stores, and laundromats of cash and tobacco, sometimes even pilfering the business’s whole ATM.

Eventually, they graduated to robbing mom-and-pop pharmacies of controlled substances like oxycodone, codeine, and Xanax, which they would then advertise and sell on social media. They also sold illegal drugs like fentanyl and ecstasy.

The group had a consistent pattern to their heists, prosecutors say: a few members would cruise in an often-stolen car, with license plates changed frequently, and rob a number of locations in quick succession by smashing the glass on their facades. After gaining entry they would quickly amass a hodgepodge of pharmaceuticals and haul them out before moving on to the next location.

The group usually traveled around in stolen luxury cars at “extremely high rates of speed,” and frequently committed hit-and-runs. Their pattern of reckless driving was responsible for two deaths: alleged Route Boy Jason Liriano, aka “jay_bigfella,” killed 55-year-old Ritawantee Persaud on Christmas Eve 2020 after smashing a Lamborghini into the back of an Uber that Persaud was traveling in. Liriano was charged with negligent homicide and is pending trial for the incident in Queens.

In January 2022, alleged Route Boy Jeffrey Vargas, aka “Chito,” was a passenger in a stolen Infiniti said to be drag racing in Williamsburg when the car smashed into a dump truck and was totaled. The front passenger was killed while Vargas, in possession of hundreds of stolen pills, was pinned in the backseat as the driver fled on foot.

“This criminal wrecking crew allegedly broke into businesses and pharmacies, stole prescription medications, and created havoc in their Hollywood-style getaways,” said Michael Driscoll, the head of the FBI’s New York field office. “These drugs are protected because of how addictive and potentially deadly they can be. The members of this gang showed no regard for the damage they caused the businesses or the danger they put people’s lives in illegally pushing drugs, all to fuel their own greed.”

Ten of the defendants face life imprisonment if convicted; another faces 40 years, while the oldest of the crew faces 15 years.