District Attorney Vance and Police Commissioner O’Neill Announce Takedown of Inwood-based Narcotics Ring

January 4, 2017

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., and New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill today announced the indictment of 32 members of an Inwood narcotics trafficking organization for possessing and selling crack cocaine. The 102-count New York State Supreme Court indictment charges all 32 defendants with Conspiracy in the Second Degree, as well as various counts of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance. Brothers JOSE LUPERON, 44, and OMAR LUPERON, 42, are charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker, also known as the “Drug Kingpin” statute, for their roles as ringleaders.[1] The indictment follows a long-term investigation, including the use of court-authorized wiretaps and undercover buys, conducted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Trial Division and the NYPD’s Narcotics Borough Manhattan North.

“These arrests shutter an alleged criminal organization that pumped narcotics into a quiet residential neighborhood 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said District Attorney Vance. “As charged in the indictment, this highly structured trafficking ring operated out of just a few buildings on one Inwood block. Now, thanks to the NYPD and my Office’s prosecutors, these residents will no longer have to sidestep drug deals in order to reach their homes, schools, and places of worship.”

Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said: “As alleged, this narcotics trafficking organization operated in the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood, distributing narcotics around the clock. But following a precise and focused investigation, members of this enterprise were identified, investigated and arrested this morning. I commend the prosecutors and investigators involved in this case who remain dedicated to both the justice system and the people of the City of New York.”

According to court documents and statements made on the record in court, from August 29, 2015, to December 26, 2016, the defendants allegedly engaged in a conspiracy related to the possession and sale of cocaine in the Inwood neighborhood of Northern Manhattan, primarily in the lobbies and gated basement entrances of residential buildings located on Vermilyea Avenue between West 204th and West 207th Streets. 

Working in shifts, members of the alleged criminal organization sold crack cocaine to customers 24 hours per day. In total, the defendants are accused of engaging in more than 100 crack cocaine sales, including more than two dozen sales to undercover NYPD detectives. 

As alleged in the indictment, defendant JOSE LUPERON served as the “boss” of the narcotics organization by obtaining the ring’s supply of cocaine; controlling and directing packaging, processing, and distribution; providing packaged cocaine to members of the organization; and monitoring its sales, including collecting and distributing the proceeds. Defendants OMAR LUPERON and JUAN FLORES, 35, served as the organization’s “supervisors” whenever JOSE LUPERON was not present, typically during nighttime and early morning hours. 

Defendants STEVE ROJAS, 34, and XAVIER VARGAS, 29, allegedly acted as “managers” of the criminal organization, determining the time and locations of sales, as well as monitoring and directing the activities of the organization’s street sellers, “steerers” and lookouts. 

The indictment charges seven defendants with acting as street-level sellers, conducting approximately 100 sales over the course of the 16-month conspiracy. Fifteen defendants are charged as “steerers,” who were tasked with directing customers to sale locations, as well as aiding in concealing the organization’s activities by acting as lookouts. 

Two of the “steerers,” ROBINSON COLLADO, 43, and JULIO VELAZQUEZ, 33, are also charged with providing and maintaining storage locations for the organization’s crack cocaine. VELAZQUEZ is further charged with delivering the organization’s narcotics from those packaging and storing locations to the sales locations. Defendant ALFRED ARIAS, 31, allegedly collected proceeds from the street-level dealers and transferred those proceeds to the three supervisors, while ALEJANDRO BAUTISTA, 62, is charged with purchasing large quantities of the organization’s narcotics to redistribute to his own customers. 

Assistant District Attorneys Megan Joy and Philip Gary are prosecuting the case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Dan M. Rather, Counsel to the Trial Division, and Executive Assistant District Attorney John Irwin, Chief of the Trial Division. Trial Preparation Assistants Amy Lora and Timothy Davis assisted with the investigation. 

District Attorney Vance thanked Police Commissioner O’Neill and the undercover detectives of Narcotics Borough Manhattan North, as well as Investigative Chief Lori Pollock and Deputy Inspector Timothy Kelly of Detective Borough Manhattan North; Deputy Inspector Patrick Cortright, Commanding Officer of Narcotics Borough Detective North; Captain Shawn Charlson of the Criminal Enterprise Division; and the Narcotics Borough Manhattan North Major Case Team, including Lieutenant Timothy Kearns, Sergeant Nicole Tirado, Detective Leandro Castro, and Detective Luis Ramos; as well as Sergeant Dom Desiervi. 

[1] The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. All factual recitations are derived from documents filed in court, including the indictment, and statements made on the record in court.