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Posted on: December 17, 2019

More than $1.2 Million Worth of Heroin Seized; 15 Indicted During Operation Tied to 3 Fatal OD's

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MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and the Long Island Heroin Taskforce announced that 15 people, including three major traffickers, have been indicted for their alleged roles in a drug operation that spanned Nassau, Suffolk, Kings and Queens Counties.

In total, 88,000 individual doses of heroin worth approximately $1,276,400; 1,024 grams of cocaine valued at $102,400; and $1,214,093 in cash were seized during this investigation.

Additionally, three bank accounts with $262,900 were frozen.

DA Singas said that beginning in July 2019, the NCDA, NCPD and Long Island Heroin Taskforce began an investigation into a drug operation that allegedly sold heroin to customers from Nassau, Suffolk and New York City. The drugs were allegedly sold from the parking lot of the Gateway Shopping Center in East New York, Brooklyn for more than six years.

During the four-month investigation, alleged ringleaders Luis Rivera and Orlando Rodriguez – who are charged with operating as major traffickers – allegedly sold between 1,300 and 2,600 bundles (13,000 to 26,000 individual doses) of heroin per month to 74 different customers, including 13 alleged street dealers charged in this indictment. One of those alleged dealers, Joseph Melito, is also charged as a major trafficker.

During the investigation, Rivera and Rodriguez’s alleged profits averaged approximately $30,000 per week and totaled $230,000 in heroin and cocaine sales.

The 13 other dealers charged in this indictment allegedly traveled from towns on Long Island, including Garden City, Valley Stream, Bellmore, Albertson, Wantagh and Hicksville, to the Gateway Shopping Center to purchase heroin from Rivera and Rodriguez, who are believed to be cousins.

Heroin originally distributed by Rivera is allegedly connected to 15 overdoses – 13 in Nassau and two in Suffolk. Three of the overdoses in Nassau were fatal.

Of the ring’s 74 customers, 54 have been identified as coming from Nassau County, 16 from Suffolk County and five from New York City.

“This massive operation has dismantled the largest known heroin trafficking operation in Nassau County, disrupting the flow of this deadly poison into our communities,” DA Singas said. “Heroin from this syndicate has been linked to at least three fatal overdoses, and we know that putting these alleged traffickers out of business will save lives. I commend our partners for their outstanding collaboration in this operation, and for their unstinting commitment to ending the opioid epidemic.”

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said: “We are in the midst of a serious nationwide addiction crisis, and every single bust makes a difference. I applaud our dedicated law enforcement officials and the Long Island Heroin Taskforce for their collaborative efforts and success in taking down these major drug traffickers, dismembering the largest known heroin trafficking operation in Nassau County. We are not taking our foot off the gas. Together, we will continue our commitment to rid our streets of this poison and keep historic low crime rates in Nassau County.”

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said, “Today’s announcement of the Operation Gateway investigation by the Long Island Heroin Task Force produced a historical amount of arrests, seizures of US currency and dangerous drugs in our region. Our combined efforts have taken these drugs and their dealers off the streets making it more difficult for drugs to get in the hands of our residents, thus making our communities even safer. I would like to congratulate all of the investigators and their respective agencies for all of their dedication and hard work over the past six months.”

“The culmination of this months-long investigation ensures that a drug trafficking operation that has been poisoning neighborhoods and families across Long Island has been dismantled,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said. “I would like to thank the Long Island Heroin Task Force for its commitment to getting these deadly drugs off our streets. Collaborating with our law enforcement partners is critical in the fight to rid the Island of narcotics and help save the lives of the addicted.”

“This organization was making millions of dollars from heroin sales, encouraging opioid abuse throughout Long Island and New York City,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan. “I applaud our partners at the Long Island Heroin Task Force, the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the Nassau County Police Department for their dogged efforts in dismantling these significant drug traffickers.”

“It is alleged that this criminal enterprise flooded Nassau Country street with heroin, with Rivera being connected to more than a dozen overdoses, three of which resulted in death,” said Peter C. Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of HSI New York. “Law enforcement continues to come together with the common goal of protecting our communities and ridding the streets of those bringing in the highly addictive and, in some cases, deadly drugs.”

On December 13, law enforcement officials executed search warrants on the Brooklyn home – 911 Euclid Avenue – of Rivera and his wife, co-defendant Nicolette Barba, which they shared with Rodriguez. Inside, police recovered: more than $383,000 cash; 963 grams of heroin with a street value of $325,000; more than 5,800 individual glassines of heroin worth $58,000; and approximately 33 grams of cocaine worth $3,300.

Inside the apartment, investigators also found 175 pairs of Jordan sneakers, worth approximately $30,000 and several safe deposit box keys.

Two of the safe deposit boxes have been opened – and inside one police found $440,100 in cash and in the other $390,100 in cash.

Rivera and Rodriquez allegedly used a stash house in Flushing, Queens – 150-29 72nd Road – to store heroin and cocaine, and during a search warrant executed police found an additional 800 grams of heroin valued on the street at $240,000; 26,730 individual glassines of heroin ready for sale worth $267,300; and 980 grams of cocaine worth $98,000.

Rivera and Rodriquez allegedly used a Honda Pilot to sell their drugs, and during a search of the vehicle, police allegedly found 910 glassines of heroin, worth $9,100; 11 grams of cocaine worth $11,000; and $165 cash inside a trap in the console of the vehicle.

The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are likely.

Defendant arraignment addendum:

Luis Rivera, 40, of Brooklyn, was arraigned yesterday before Judge William O’Brien and charged with two counts of Operating as a Major Trafficker (an A-I felony), four counts of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree (a B felony), Conspiracy in the Second Degree (a B felony) and 25 counts of Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (an E felony). The defendant was remanded and is due back in court December 27. If convicted of the top count, he faces 25 years to life in prison.

Orlando Rodriguez, 36, of Brooklyn, was arraigned yesterday before Judge William O’Brien and charged with two counts of Operating as a Major Trafficker (an A-I felony) and 25 counts of Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (an E felony). The defendant was remanded and is due back in court on December 27. If convicted of the top count, he faces 25 years to life in prison.

Joseph Melito, 30, of Albertson, was arraigned today before Judge William O’Brien and charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker (an A-I felony), Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree (a B felony), Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree (a B felony) and two counts of Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (an E felony). The defendant was remanded and is due back in court on December 27. If convicted of the top count, he faces a maximum of 25 years to life in prison.

Nicolette Barba, 36, of Brooklyn, was arraigned yesterday before Judge William O’Brien and charged with two counts of Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (an E felony). Bail was set at $150,000 cash or $150,000 bond and she is due back in court December 27. If convicted of the top count, she faces a maximum of 1/1-3 to four years in prison.

Emily Hlavaty, 55, of Syosset, was arraigned yesterday before Judge William O’Brien and charged with two counts of Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (an E felony). The defendant was released on her own recognizance and is due back in court December 26. If convicted of the top count, she faces 1/1-3 to four years in prison.

Peter Humann, 44, of Huntington, was arraigned yesterday before Judge William O’Brien and charged with Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree (a B felony), Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree (a B felony) and two counts of Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (an E felony). The defendant was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court January 17. If convicted of the top count, he faces a maximum of nine years in prison.

Christine Kaempf, 37, of North Bellmore, was arraigned yesterday before Judge William O’Brien and charged with two counts of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree (a B felony), two Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree (a B felony) and two counts of Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (an E felony). The defendant was released on her own recognizance and is due back in court December 27. If convicted of the top count, she faces a maximum of 1-1/3 to four years in prison.

Judy Miller, 51, of Brightwaters, was arraigned yesterday before Judge William O’Brien and charged with two counts of Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (an E felony). The defendant was released on her own recognizance and is due back in court December 27. If convicted of the top count, she faces a maximum of two to four years in prison.

Michael Gashonia, 36, of Wantagh, was arraigned yesterday before Judge William O’Brien and charged with Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree (a B felony), Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree (a B felony) and two counts of Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (an E felony). The defendant was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court December 27. If convicted of the top count, he faces a maximum of 1-1/3 to four years in prison.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.

Senior Assistant District Attorneys Victoria Mauri and Gregory Murphy of DA Singas’ Special Operations Narcotics and Gangs Bureau are prosecuting this case.

The defendants are represented by:

  • Rivera: Mitchell Elman, Esq.
  • Rodriguez: Mitchell Elman, Esq.
  • Barba: Mitchell Elman, Esq.
  • Hlavaty: Fred Pollack, Esq.
  • Humann: Christopher Devane, Esq.
  • Kaempf: John Pedranghelu, Esq.
  • Melito: Oscar Holt, Esq.
  • Miller:  Stuart Kanoff, Esq.
  • Gashonia: Robert Schalk, Esq.

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