Authorities Seize 5,000 Pounds of Cocaine, Arrest Colombian
NEW YORK (AP) _ Authorities seized about 5,000 pounds of cocaine and $2 million in cash, much of it stashed in bags marked ″Just Say No to Drugs,″ in one of the largest drug hauls in the United States, authorities said Sunday.
The cocaine had an estimated street value of $400 million, officials said.
A man identified as the local leader of a Colombian drug ring was arrested after agents raided a small studio apartment late Saturday and early Sunday.
Arrested with two other men at the apartment was Hernando Grajales Rizzo, 39, a citizen of Colombia and a leader in the Cali drug cartel, said Robert M. Stutman, agent in charge of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York office.
The men were unarmed and did not resist when about 20 drug agents and police officers moved in, Stutman said.
Stutman would not say when or how the smugglers brought the drugs into New York but said the raid followed several months of surveillance.
″I hope it will have an impact (on the cartel’s activity), but the amount of the drugs coming in is very, very large,″ said Raymond Jones, chief of the Police Department’s Organized Crime Control Bureau. ″The problem is that a 2- pound, 2-ounce package, a kilo, can be broken down to about 14,000 vials of crack. That is our major problem.″
Authorities displayed numerous small plastic-wrapped boxes of cocaine, packed into larger crates and duffel bags, at a news conference Sunday. Several heaping boxes of U.S. currency - $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills - along with a money-counting machine also were set out.
The largest cocaine shipment ever seized in the United States, in Tampa, Fla., on April 28, involved 9,230 pounds found in plastic containers that were concealed in hallowed-out lumber. The largest in the New York City area occurred in Hicksville, in July, when agents discovered some 6,000 pounds of cocaine hidden inside blocks of chocolate shipped from Ecuador.
Only a few cocaine seizures nationally have exceeded 5,000 pounds. But Customs Service agents in 10 months have seized 10 tons more cocaine than they did in all of the last fiscal year, Customs Commissioner William von Raab said earlier this month.
Rizzo and the other men will be arraigned this week, authorities said.