Feds Bust Fake Uber Drug-Dealing Ring In NYC

By Keri Blakinger 05/04/17

A kilo of coke, five cars and more than $22,000 were seized in the bust. 

cocaine and fake ride-sharing placards that were confiscated by law enforcement.
cocaine and fake ride-sharing placards that were confiscated by law enforcement. via DEA

A New York City drug ring busted this week used fake stickers to pose as Uber drivers and drop their illicit wares off undetected. 

A year-long investigation into the rideshare drug ring has netted six arrests in the past week, NBC News reported.

Alfredo Tejada-Almonte, 34, was fingered as the alleged head of the dope-peddling collective, according to the New York Post

Dibanny Cortorreal-Marte, Miguel la-Paz Lugo, Selena Santos, Roberto Toribio and Oscar Almonte were also collared in connection with the drug ring that cops have dubbed “Uber Connect.”

Almonte and his crew are accused of selling cocaine and heroin to more than 100 buyers in Manhattan and the Bronx, law enforcement sources told the TV station. 

In order to avoid raising suspicions when they waited outside apartments, the faux Uber crew pretended to be a part of the rideshare app. They were not actual Uber drivers, though they plastered their windshields with the logo that Uber drivers are required to display. 

One of crew’s cars boasted a concealed compartment inside, and authorities seized one kilogram of coke, five vehicles, a kilo press and more than $22,000 when they busted the drug-trafficking ring. 

After an investigation by federal and local law enforcement, the group was picked up Tuesday by the DEA Strike Force. NYPD, New York State Police, Homeland Security and a slew of other agencies helped in the case. 

This isn’t the first time drug dealers have used Uber as a cover for illicit dealings. Back in 2015, police in California collared an Uber driver accused of selling meth, according to LA Weekly. Responding to a tip, Glendale police surveilled Artak Avakian for about 45 minutes before moving in for an arrest. 

The 23-year-old man had been driving for Uber for two years and “used the position as a cover to sell drugs,” according to a statement. 

When police picked him up, they found three rifles, a shotgun, a pistol, more than $19,000 in cash, 450 prescription pills, 20 ecstasy pills, 13 baggies of coke, an ounce of psilocybin, a bag of meth and a digital scale. 

Avakian was charged with possession of meth and possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. 

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.