The federal government Tuesday indicted 20 members of a New York-area drug trafficking ring that brought 20 kilograms of heroin valued at $2.75 million to street-level dealers in Queens and Long Island in the past nine months.
The leadership of the so-called Perez Organization was based in Woodhaven, Queens, with distribution networks in Nassau and Suffolk counties and a storage facility in Brooklyn. The men were arrested today.
"As alleged in the indictment, the Perez Organization was responsible for a significant portion of the heroin distributed on Long Island," said Janice K. Fedarcyk, the FBI's assistant director in charge, in a release. "Heroin use among suburban teens is alarmingly popular, and today's heroin is more potent and less expensive than ever. A potentially lethal dose can be purchased for about the cost of a pack of cigarettes or a six-pack of beer."
The indictment and arrests resulted from a nine-month joint investigation, called "Operation County Connection," by the FBI and Nassau County Police Department. Other assisting agencies include the Suffolk County Police Department, New York City Police Department, and the U.S. Marshals Service.
Law enforcement agents monitored hundreds of hours of court-ordered wiretaps documenting numerous purchases and sales of heroin by the defendants, and conducted numerous controlled purchases of the drug. More than 5,400 individual doses of heroin were recovered from members of the Perez Organization. The agents executed search warrants at four heroin storage locations in Queens, Brooklyn, and Roosevelt, New York, seizing $30,000 in heroin and thousands of dollars in cash.
The government's investigation exposed the depth and breadth of heroin trafficking activity in the Eastern District of New York, as the Perez Organization's alleged reach stretched across community and demographic boundaries. Among the defendants charged in this case are Roland Stern, a retired Suffolk County Marine Bureau Police Officer, and his daughter Corey Stern; Tina and Matthew Catrini, a married couple; Kathryn Pappas, a college student; and Dana Sollecito, who allegedly sold heroin from the parking lot of the Corner Gallery, her family's restaurant in Massapequa.
"This operation highlights how successful law enforcement can be working in collaboration," said Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Dale in a release. "We as a team have taken down an alleged major heroin ring that was plaguing Nassau County."
If convicted of the heroin distribution conspiracy charge, each of the defendants faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.