NEW CITY – Nearly 30 people tied to an oxycodone and heroin trafficking ring have been charged with selling the drugs across Rockland, including at the Palisades Center and its parking lots, the Shops at Nanuet, and local motels, officials said Wednesday.
The alleged leader, Victor “Tonchi” Esteban, also operated at times out of his home at the Mount Ivy Trailer Park in Pomona, Rockland and federal prosecutors said during a news conference at the District Attorney’s Office.
Esteban is accused of organizing the distribution ring and buying heroin from an alleged dealer in the Bronx
A total of 17 people – including nine from Rockland – face federal drug conspiracy charges while another 12 face state a felony charge of fourth-degree conspiracy. So far. authorities said, 12 people have been arrested on the federal drug conspiracy charges and 10 on the state charge.
Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said the 29 people included street gang members and people with criminal records.
The Rockland Drug Task Force initiated the case, dubbed “Operation True Blue,” and played a prominent role in the undercover investigation, which included street buys and surveillance of cell phones and social media accounts.
“Dealers in this operation are alleged to have sunk to a new low, selling prescription drugs and heroin at popular locations where parents drop off their kids to see a movie, attend a birthday party or spend time ice skating with friends,” Zugibe said.
Zugibe and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara detailed the investigation at a news conference Wednesday. They were joined by the Drug Enforcement Administration special agent Chris Roberts, Rockland Drug Task Force Director Christopher Goldrick, County Executive Ed Day and local police officials.
The ring members obtained large quantities of oxycodone, a highly addictive prescription drug, through forged and fraudulent prescriptions passed at pharmacies across the state, authorities said. Some members posed as doctors who called the pharmacies as part of the fraud.
Federal agents searched the Harlem apartment of Jushawn Stevens on Oct. 6. The agents found a printer set up to print prescriptions on official New York State prescription paper and more than 30 fraudulent prescriptions for oxycodone.
Undercover officers made numerous buys from the suspects from early 2014 until March. Those arrested are accused of selling more than 50,000 oxycodone tablets, with an estimated value topping more than $1 million, Zugibe said.
Dealers sold oxycodone inside and around the Palisades Center and, to a lesser degree, in and around the Shops of Nanuet. They also sold heroin and other drugs in rented motel rooms along the Route 59 strip.
Clarkstown Police Chief Michael Sullivan and Zugibe both noted that despite the mall connection to the case, few violent crimes occur at either shopping center.
The 17 people who face federal charges each face two counts: conspiracy to selloxycodone and conspiracy to sell heroin.