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23 September 2008
Authorities announced Tuesday that nine people were arraigned on charges of running a drug smuggling ring and shipping cocaine into the city inside boxes of children's toys. The nine are accused of smuggling the drugs in boxes of Legos, puzzles and even express mail packages. The suspects all pleaded not guilty to felony charges, ranging from conspiracy and money laundering, to criminal possession of a controlled substance and criminal sale of a controlled substance.
Investigators from several law enforcement agencies say the organization shipped the drugs from Puerto Rico. "Drug trafficking is not child's play but to this group they thought that it was by smuggling cocaine into New York City disguised in boxes of children's toys," said John Gilbride of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Four kilograms of cocaine, four handguns, and more than $86,000 were recovered during the five-month investigation. "The innocence of the children's toys, the innocence of children would somehow throw investigators off the track," said special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan. "I mean, whenever you see a child's toy the last thing you think of is narcotics."
Investigators say Jose Diaz, the New York contact for the organization, was arrested on July 30. The others were arrested Tuesday.
One defendant was said to have worked in an Upper East Side check-cashing center. “We’re investigating whether they were paid in cocaine,” said Brennan. “And then, he was turning around and laundering the money that he received from dealing in cocaine – hundreds of thousands of dollars we believe, perhaps up to a half-million dollars during the five-month link of the investigation.”
“We’ve seen drugs smuggled in prosthetic legs, inside of candy, the lining of clothes, in shoes,“ said John Gilbride of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “In false compartments of vehicles, tractor trailers – you name it, the drug traffickers and already tried it. And they will continue to try it and we will continue to find them and place them in jail.”
As of Tuesday night, no information was provided on how the organization disposed of the toys involved. Six of the accused were held Tuesday night in custody, one was held in secure bond and two were released on their own recognizance.
None of the accused gave comments on the case.
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