DEA Agents Make Largest Seizure Of Cocaine In Northeast
HICKSVILLE, N.Y. (AP) _ About 6,000 pounds of cocaine concealed in blocks of melted chocolate was confiscated and three men were arrested in what authorities described today as the largest seizure of cocaine in the Northeast.
The drugs have a street value of about $480 million, said Robert Stutman, head of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency in New York.
The cocaine was discovered June 24 aboard a U.S. cargo ship coming from Ecuador into Port Newark, N.J., said U.S. Customs Agent Peter Baish, in charge of the Newark office. Baish said it was a ″cold hit,″ meaning inspectors had no previous tip about the shipment.
He said inspectors decided to drill a hole in several of 1,200 cardboard cartons marked cocoa because it had come from Ecuador, a frequent exporter of cocaine.
The smugglers had poured melted chocolate on the bottom of each carton, concealed the cocaine in a metal container and plastic sleeve in the center and then poured melted chocolate over it, letting it harden, Baish said.
At least 779 of the cartons had cocaine in the middle, said Stutman. He said officials were still opening the boxes.
Customs agents resealed the boxes and watched as they were taken to Toronto Imports Inc. in an industrial section of Hicksville on Thursday, Baish said.
When the men inside the warehouse began opening the boxes, some 50 law enforcement agents moved in, Stutman said.
He said the three men arrested are believed to be connected to the Ochoa family in Medellin, Colombia, which he described as one of the largest producers and exporters of cocaine.
They were identified as Absalon Borrero, 42, of Miami; Jaime Caro, 48, of Anza, Colombia; and Oscar Nunez, 28, of Queens. Stutman said they were charged with importation and distribution of cocaine and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.