BRONX - Law enforcement officers seized over 40 pounds of fentanyl, worth nearly $1.5 million, in the Bronx on Tuesday.
The fentanyl was found six blocks away from Divino Niño Daycare Center where a 1-year-old child died after fentanyl exposure and three other children taken to the hospital.
"Fentanyl is everywhere and in everything and it’s the most urgent threat right now to our family’s community and our children," said Frank Terentino, special agent in charge of the DEA New York division.
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The Special Narcotics Prosecutor (SNP) charged Juan Gabriel Herrera Vargas, 42, with operating as a major trafficker, criminal possession of a controlled substance and criminally using drug paraphernalia.
Vargas was arrested and taken into custody on Tuesday and is awaiting arraignment today in Manhattan Criminal Court.
Transporting fentanyl via subway
Prior to this incident, officers saw Vargas on Tuesday carrying a small black bag to the Kingsbridge Road subway station.
Using surveillance, agents and officers tracked Vargas and saw him leaving an apartment building at 2800 Heath Ave., in the Bronx, pulling a black and tan rolling suitcase just a few hours later.
When the officers confronted Vargas he gave them his wallet and ran away leaving the suitcase behind. They found 13 rectangular shaped kilogram bricks of what appeared to be fentanyl inside the suitcase.
A few hours later, Vargas was seen leaving the same apartment building with a blue suitcase.
Blue Rolling Suitcase used to Transport 50,000 glassines filled with suspected fentanyl (New York Division, Drug Enforcement Administration)
The officers arrested Vargas and this time seized 50,000 glassines wrapped together into 25 larger packages from inside the suitcase, according to police.
When they arrived they noticed the apartment windows were covered with black plastic trash bags.
When they searched the apartment they found one kilogram of fentanyl, six pounds of loose powder, 10,000 filled glassines, and other packing materials.
Divino Niño Daycare Center
On Tuesday the husband of the owner of Divino Niño Daycare was arrested after a 1-year-old boy died of fentanyl exposure at the facility.
Police say that Felix Herrera was arrested in Mexico, having been on the run for over a week since the death of Nicholas Dominici.
It is still unclear whether Juan Gabriel Herrera Vargas and Felix Herrera are connected to one another.
New York City's Opioid Crisis
The city's Health Department reported the highest number of drug overdoses on record last year, with 3,026 people dying, a 12% increase from the year before.
Opioids are currently killing one New Yorker every three hours.
Its key contributor, fentanyl, is reportedly the most common substance present in 4 out of 5 overdose deaths in the city.
"Reports are that New York like everywhere else in the country, its accessible. You never have to go more than a few blocks to find someone who’s trafficking it," said Harry Nelson, a healthcare professional and author of the United States of Opioids.