In a 10-month investigative operation that started with street sales of ketamine, ecstasy, and oxycodone at city nightclubs including Webster Hall and Pacha NYC, Puerto Rican drug kingpin Ricardo Gonzalez-Santiago and nine other drug traffickers have been arrested and indicted, according to an announcement from Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly today. Gonzalez-Santiago, who had lived as a fugitive for two years after escaping arrest for a drug case in Philly, was arrested after picking up two suitcases full of 80 pounds of cocaine valued at approximately $1.3 million at the Paramount Hotel in Times Square on March 25.
That morning, Gonzalez-Santiago had flown to JFK Airport from San Juan, P.R. in order to oversee distribution of the shipment of cocaine. Gonzalez-Santiago was a subject of the wiretap investigation at the time and law enforcement officers knew of his travel plans. Upon arriving at JFK Airport, Gonzalez-Santiago was immediately placed under surveillance by a team of officers, who first followed him to an apartment in the Bronx and then to the Paramount Hotel on West 46th Street.
Gonzalez-Santiago entered the hotel, returned with the suitcases, and loaded them into his car. The team stopped the car several blocks away on West 45th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, arrested Gonzalez-Santiago, and seized the 36 kilos, which were still inside the suitcases and bundled into 18 packages covered in carbon paper.
The drugs had been intended for a Bronx supplier, Francisco Rivera, who was arrested today, along with Kevin Collins, Daniel Gradzki, Angela Como, and Melvin Nieves. Other dealers arrested in the whole investigation were Phillip Gonzalez, caught on January 11 in Queens after his car got stuck in a snow bank, Jose Santana, Matthew Velez, and Michael Falcon.
Gonzalez-Santiago is being held without bail after being indicted for “Operating as a Major Drug Trafficker,” the only New York State drug charge that carries a possible life sentence.
Here’s the takedown chart, from the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for New York City.