New York’s white collar set paid double for drugstore coke—and we’re not talking soda.
A year-long sting by NYPD narcotics plain clothes officers took down a trio of Lower East Side street pharmacists who allegedly sold their pure dope product for twice the street price to their VIP clientele. The exploits of kingpin Kenny “Jay” Hernandez and his foot soldiers Felix “Jake” Nunez and Oscar Almonte are documented in a riveting 88-page criminal complaint detailing how the crew hand delivered the goods all over Manhattan to 18 demanding execs. They include boldface names like Fox Business producer Katherine Welnhofer, Chipotle’s Chief Creative and Development Officer Mark Crumpacker, and a spate of Wall Street types in a takedown reminiscent of the ’80s.
The cops maintained a steady surveillance on the ring and consistently bought cocaine in various instances throughout the investigation. Some buyers have been named and arraigned while others are expected to be nabbed in the coming days, authorities said. The buys were made in bodegas, 99-cent stores, supermarkets, art galleries, and fine restaurants, but the dealers seemed to favor certain aisles in pharmacies including Duane Reade and CVS.
The police depict Hernandez as some sort of Tony Montana-inspired drill sergeant, constantly switching up cellphones, hopping flights, and putting in long clips to move what was often referred to as “girls,” “tickets,” “white,” “killer stuff,” and “yams.”
“You need to be on your shit, come fast,” Hernandez once said, “today is Friday when I start, when I go outside I last three, four hours, then I come back, get another.”
The perks of Hernandez’s operation offered customers a sort of valet service, making transactions along the aisles of drugstores of their choosing, to their office, home, watering hole, or to an idling luxury car (which always seemed to be a Mercedes). And their pursuit for purity and accommodation to be supplied around the clock—often by Hernandez himself—meant people were dealing with few middlemen and each got personal treatment.
For Christopher Dodson, a stockbroker at Merrill Lynch, his offsite trading floor was the same Duane Reade pharmacy located on Second Avenue and East 32nd Street in the city’s Kips Bay neighborhood. Roman Yoffe—who, according to LinkedIn, worked at a tax and management firm RVYA on Wall Street—met Hernandes to purchase “4 for 6” inside a Gristedes supermarket on Feb. 24, 2015, located in Lower Manhattan. A day later, clearly pleased with the punch the cocaine packed, Yoffe bought the same but this time had Hernandez meet him at “the office,” his employer downtown.
One unnamed customer called Hernandez for “150” dollars’ worth of “some nice shit [Hernandez] just got,” the complaint states. Three days later Hernandez met Kyle Holmes “in a little black car” and allegedly sold cocaine to Holmes, who is maybe the same man described on LinkedIn as a senior associate at an international health-care consulting firm called Marwood Group.
Austin Dodson, who according to a man with the same name on LinkedIn works as an associate for the city property juggernaut Cushman and Wakefield, preferred to meet Hernandez at “a restaurant” 20 blocks uptown, the complaint claims. As demand increased, so too did the domains where deals were made. Hernandez and company went from Rx to rolling shotgun in various luxury cars. One customer demanded to meet Hernandez in a white Mercedes where “5/4 200” of “really good” stuff would be exchanged. Another time, Dodson met a customer inside a white E-Class Mercedes in the shadow of the Waldorf Astoria where he allegedly bought “4 for 240.”
Hernandez knew the score when he was called and often cut to the quick when it came to making deals.
In one call recorded on March 4 with an unnamed customer he asked “What you need?” and the coke fiend responded “Blow.” Hernandez tartly retorted, “I know that, how much?”
While coke is the only dish on the menu it doesn’t stop one customer asking for specials. “You got any Adderall?” one unnamed customer asked. Hernandez allegedly invents a money-back guarantee to win the sale even though it’s just plain Jane cocaine. “No, I have some good white. Try what I have and if you don’t like it I’ll give you your money back.”
And Hernandez seemed to want to keep his business far from the nest. When one of his crew called from outside his home on May 10, he allegedly told them “You can’t bring niggas to my building.” He ultimately buzzed the bunch up despite the warning. The getting was good until their crew began to crumble.
On May 29, Felix “Jake” Nunez spoke with Hernandez who claimed he “just landed.”
“You know you got saved right now. We both got saved, that nigga was working with them the whole time.”
It’s unclear what Nunez is referring to, but it’s possible he’s speaking about their number three Oscar Almonte whose name save for the charges doesn’t appear to be throughout the complaint. The good times come to an end it appears on June 7 when a cop called Hernandez to ask if he was going to be in town over the weekend. He responds “It’s Jay, this is my new number. Save it. What you need? Call me at this number, I won’t have the other number no more,” he said, according to the document.
This appears to be the last chatter before the police moved in.
In court, some of the customers appeared in green jumpsuits and were slapped with high bail amounts.
Welnhofer, the Fox Business producer, was remanded in lieu of $15,000 bail. Dodson, who almost ran up an $8,000 cocaine tab, must come up with a $30,000 bond. Yoffe, who bought $2,500 worth of “white” was held for $30,000 bond. One attorney, who asked to remain anonymous, expressed to The Daily Beast concern that the hiked bail was set as a “shaming tactic.”
“The judge in this case is essentially punishing these customers for their affluence or appearance of affluence,” the attorney said. “If this was someone who was outside making their first street buy and was observed by an officer who arrested them, they would be released on their own recognizance 100 times out of a 100.” Nevertheless, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance railed about all of the offenders and referred to the coke fiends as “key repeat customers.”
In a statement, Vance stressed his office was determined to not just focus on fracturing the illicit marketplace. “We are dedicated to stemming both the supply and demand for dangerous narcotics, and the crime that accompanies the market for illegal drugs.”
NYPD Commissioner William Bratton gave a little credit to the dealers’ smarts: “This narcotics operations was organized and discreet, but it could not withstand the precision of the long-term investigation.”
By M.L. Nestel - The Daily Beast/July 1, 2016
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