Rockland County D.A.: Narcotics business linked to Puerto Rico
BY BILL DEMAREST
HAVERSTRAW – Tips from local residents fed up with open-air drug dealing in their neighborhood led to an investigation that has broken an alleged family-run cocaine ring that used the barbershop “Fine Line” as its base of operations, according to Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe.
The investigation has led to 14 arrests and tracked money shipments from Haverstraw to Puerto Rico. In one instance, Zugibe said investigators seized $35,000 in cash that was bound for Puerto Rico, hidden in luggage intercepted at John F. Kennedy International Airport by the Rockland Narcotics Task Force and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“The main defendants are accused of operating as a tightly-knit family business that catered to drug buyers from across Rockland County,” Zugibe said. “These arrests underscore our commitment to continue to work to improve the quality of life for the residents of our community, some of whom have been plagued by illegal drug trafficking near their homes.”
The investigation, called “Operation Higher Ground,” took place over a six-month-period in the Town of Haverstraw, leading to the arrests of 14 people ranging in ages from 24 to 44, including cousins and a brother-in-law. Charges include the sale of crack cocaine and powdered cocaine sold to undercover police on Church Street in the Garnerville section of Haverstraw.
“This latest sweep of dangerous drug dealers is the result of our partnership with a variety of state and federal agencies,” said Rockland County Drug Task Force Director Christopher Goldrick. “These relationships provide tremendous resources to Rockland’s law enforcement organizations, including intelligence and analytical mapping.”
The probe included police from Haverstraw, Homeland Security, New York State Police, the U.S. Postal Inspectors, Clarkstown police and police from Schenectady, NY.
Among those charged are cousins Juan Medina of Garnerville and Delvin Fernandez of Garnerville, who are accused of running a drug organization from Fernandez’s business, Fine Line Barbershop and Salon, 7 S. Route 9W, West Haverstraw, as well as from several locations on Church Street. Zugibe said an analysis of information developed by the Haverstraw police Street Crime Unit led to undercover drug buys and eavesdropping efforts targeting the cocaine business.
The investigation, according to Zugibe, intercepted discussions street locations for cocaine deliveries that were sent through the mail, with money generated by the drug sales sent to family members of Medina and Fernandez in Puerto Rico. The probe found that money orders sent through Western Union were used to distribute money to family members, ranging from $3,000 to $4,800.
Zugibe said that in one instance Fernandez was directed by family members in Puerto Rico to hide $35,000 in his luggage so it would not be detected by TSA agents at JFK airport. The money, however, was intercepted based on information developed during the investigation.
Among those arrested – 13 of the 14 are from Rockland County, with the last one a resident of New Jersey – included individuals who have previously been connected to drug dealing, robbery, assault, burglary, parole violation and weapons charges.
Zugibe said the investigation is continuing and additional arrests are expected.