Heroin bust in Riverdale breaks state record

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Correction appended.

Two men were using an apartment on a quiet Riverdale street as a stash house for one of the biggest heroin rings in the northeastern U.S., authorities allege.

On Sunday, federal agents seized over 154 pounds of heroin and more than $2 million in cash in a raid at 210 W. 251st St., paces away from Horace Mann School. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) said it was the biggest bust in the state in the agency’s history and the fourth biggest in the country.

After a yearlong investigation, authorities arrested Jose Mercedes, also known as “Hippie,” on Sunday morning when he arrived at his apartment building in a Kia Sorento, according to a criminal complaint. Agents recovered “several large bags containing a tan powdery substance” from the SUV’s front seat and a compartment.

Authorities then observed Yenci Cruz Francisco leave his seven-story building, the Deauville, and enter a Chevrolet Suburban in a gated lot behind the residence. Agents recovered 70 packages of heroin “labeled with the identifying name of ‘Rolex’” and $24,000 in cash, the complaint continued.

The city’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said in a statement, “The $50 million street value of the heroin in this case is a conservative estimate… This load was so large it carried the potential of supplying a dose to every man, woman and child in New York City.”

After hauling in the drugs, agents went to Mr. Cruz Francisco and Mr. Mercedes’ apartment, 5E, recovering $2 million in cash from underneath the floorboards. A search of another apartment associated with their ring, located at 830 Magenta St. in the Bronx, turned up a .380 caliber firearm.

The suspects were each charged with one count of operating as a major trafficker and one count of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree. They were held without bail, with their next date in Manhattan Criminal Court set for Friday, May 22.

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