Friday night did not go as planned for Frank Giardina. Around 11:05 p.m., police officers came to his third-floor apartment in Flushing, Queens, to check on a noise complaint someone called in to 311. The officers knocked on the door and, the police said, Mr. Giardina, 49, came to the door with a marijuana pipe in his hand, a telltale odor emanating. When asked about the smell, he replied, “Oh, that’s weed,” according to the officers.
The officers, seeing the pipe, requested his identification to write him a summons, the police said, and Mr. Giardina obliged, inviting the officers into his home while he fetched his ID.
That was a critical second mistake, because, the police said, when the officers entered the apartment, they took a look around and saw something significantly more interesting than a pot pipe: about five pounds of what looked like heroin sitting on the kitchen table.
It was not clear whether Mr. Giardina, who the police said had no arrests before Friday, said anything to the officers to explain the apparent presence of a significant quantity of narcotics on the table. But they soon arrested him, got a search warrant and performed a more thorough search of the apartment, turning up still more heroin, in 1,948 glassine bags, along with materials used for packaging, the police said.
Mr. Giardina was charged Sunday night with first-degree criminal drug possession, a spokeswoman for the Queens district attorney’s office said. Mr. Giardina’s next court date was set for March 24, and he faces a minimum sentence of eight years in prison if convicted, Meris Campbell, the spokeswoman, said. Jane Remler, his lawyer at the Legal Aid Society, did not immediately return a call for comment on Sunday.
So what began as a routine noise check turned into the latest discovery by New York area law enforcement agencies of an apparent heroin mill, in a neighborhood not known as a hub for drug trafficking. Officials say drug organizations have increasingly preferred to set up such operations in places like Fort Lee, N.J., and even Midtown Manhattan, to avoid detection by the authorities and reduce the chance of a robbery.
The seizure of what the police said was approximately five pounds of heroin could represent as much as $400,000 in street-level sales, depending on its level of adulteration. The Drug Enforcement Administration seized about 317 pounds of heroin across New York State last year; seizures in the state are up 67 percent over the last four years.
Mr. Giardina’s apartment, at 67-11 161st Street, sits along a curving stretch of road in a cooperative development called Electchester, established in 1949 to provide affordable apartments for electricians and their families.
“There’s no dope around here that I know of,” said a 61-year-old electrician from Local 3, who lives across the street from Mr. Giardina and asked not to be identified because of the nature of the crime. “The only thing that bothers me as of late is that I can’t go to the store without getting hit up for money or a cigarette.” He said there had also been gunshots on the block last year.
By J. DAVID GOODMAN
MARCH 9, 2014
The NY Times
The Newhawks Crew
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Checking Noise Complaint, Officers Stumble Upon a Heroin Mill