Fentanyl Mills Found Throughout New York City By DEA

By Paul Gaita 09/13/17

Fentanyl has become the "number one problem" for the DEA's New York Division, says one agent.

Police SWAT team members during arrest action

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has increased its offensive against the growing presence of fentanyl in New York City, which has taken root in both high-profile and lower-rent neighborhoods.

The synthetic opioid—which was involved in 44% of NYC overdose deaths in 2016 (an increase of 16% from 2015)—has become the "number one problem" for the DEA's New York Division, according to special agent in charge, James Hunt.

Federal agents, emboldened by $12.5 million in federal funding to track opioids across the United States, have uncovered record amounts of the drug in recent months—most notably a 40-pound haul in August—and have implemented the use of helicopters to track fentanyl mills and shipping routes established by Mexican cartels throughout the city.

Their aerial investigations have shown that the drug has become a pervasive presence in New York—from locations in the Bronx to upscale apartments in Central Park West.

A feature in the New York Post illustrated the shift in locations utilized by cartels to manufacture and sell fentanyl throughout New York City. The Bronx, which experienced more drug overdose deaths than any other borough in 2015, remains a hotbed of production—DEA agents turned up 36 pounds of heroin laced with fentanyl in a single Morris Heights flat in August 2017.

But their investigations are also finding that traffickers have set up operations in high-end neighborhoods as well. A newly renovated apartment in Central Park West with a $4,000-a-month price tag was revealed to be an opioid mill with equipment to mix and package the substance, while authorities turned up another mill in a high-rise apartment in Long Island City, Queens. 

"We're seeing the bad guys going into nice neighborhoods because they don't have to worry about getting robbed by competing traffickers," said Hunt. "All you need is a room to set up a drug mill, and traffickers are looking for anonymity. Right now, they have too much competition in Washington Heights and the Bronx."

The Post feature also notes that agents have also found hotbeds of drug-trafficking activity at the Hunts Point Terminal in the Bronx, where trucks allegedly employed by cartels unload drugs along with fruits and vegetables onto loading docks.

Helicopter surveillance has also allegedly observed truck drivers delivering drugs to dealers at New Jersey Turnpike rest stops, which are then distributed to mills and then provided to dealers throughout the city and New England.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.