Group Busted Allegedly Smuggling Cocaine in Children’s Lunchboxes

Five people were charged in New York for allegedly smuggling cocaine in children’s lunchboxes and school binders sporting “images of popular cartoon characters,” authorities announced on Oct. 27.

New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor alleges that the group “shipped numerous packages containing cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York and Massachusetts” between May 2020 and July 2021, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) release.

They would allegedly hide bricks of cocaine in the cutesy small zipper bags and then mail them from Puerto Rico to residential addresses in New York State, including in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and Greene County, as well as to Massachusetts.

“Often, the named recipients were either fictitious or were actual individuals not associated with the address,” the release said.
“Frequently, the return addresses were in New York, despite the packages originating in Puerto Rico. At least two packages bore the return address of a luxury clothing boutique in Upper Manhattan.”

Based on the “hallmarks” of several packages that authorities recovered, U.S. Postal Inspectors uncovered about 100 similar packages shipped since May of 2020.

Investigators used fingerprints to tie six packages to different members of the group.

In all, investigators recovered over 66 pounds of cocaine.

Epoch Times Photo
Cocaine allegedly smuggled in children’s lunchboxes. (USPIS/NYDETF)

“Concealing narcotic drugs in children’s lunchboxes was the modus operandi for this organization. If this tactic was designed to throw off law enforcement, it did not work,” said Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan in the release.

Alleged “ringleader” Carlos Duarte, aka “Showtime,” was arrested on the morning of Oct. 27 in his Yonkers home by agents, officers, and inspectors from the DEA, NYPD, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. They recovered on scene nearly a pound of “a white powdery substance, some of which tested positive as cocaine in a field test,” according to the DEA release.

Fellow alleged ringleader Alexis Garcia, aka “Ale G.,” was nabbed in front of a Yonkers recording studio with $12,000 on him. Authorities found another $32,000 in cash in his home.

The two worked as managers representing recording artists in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, the investigators found.

“Frequent travel in connection with this work allegedly served as a cover for narcotics-related activity,” the release said.

Of the three other alleged culprits, Rual Sweeney was arrested on the night of Oct. 26 in the Bronx. Wesley Coddington, aka “Lucky,” was arrested on Jan. 22 in the Bronx. Inside the car he was in, agents and officers found “a hidden trap compartment in the back seat area” with two lunchboxes stuffed with some 2 kilos (4.4 pounds) of cocaine, the release said. Bryan Centeno-Rosado was arrested on April 29 while riding a livery car in Yonkers. Officers and agents recovered two lunchboxes stuffed with 4 kilos (8.8 pounds) of cocaine.

They face charges including Conspiracy in the Second Degree, Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First and Third Degrees. Duarte also faces the top narcotics charge of Operating as a Major Trafficker.

“Over the years we have seen many creative ways that drug traffickers conceal illegal narcotics in an effort to elude detection from law enforcement. Hiding narcotics in kid branded items is pathetic,” said Postal Inspector in Charge Philip Bartlett in the release.

“Make no mistake, law enforcement will spare no resource to bring them to justice for their crimes in an effort to maintain the safety of the communities we serve.”

Petr Svab

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Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.

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