Harlem Drug Bust: 77 Pounds of Suspected Fentanyl Labeled With Pablo Escobar

By Miguel Moreno

On March 28, over 77 pounds of suspected heroin or fentanyl were seized in Harlem, New York City. Ariel Hernandez faces drug charges and Luisuidyn Garcia Mena has been charged with conspiracy in the second degree and false personation.

Fentanyl is an extremely dangerous substance, with only two milligrams necessary to kill an adult. If what was found is indeed fentanyl, the 77-pound seizure is more than enough to kill the entire population of New York City. Fentanyl-related deaths and overdoses are exponentially rising: from 2011 to 2016, there was a 1,000 percent increase in overdose deaths, according to the CDC (pdf).

Drug seizure in Harlem.
Drug seizure in Harlem, New York, on March 28, 2019. (DEA)

“When mixing with heroin, there is no way for the consumer to know just how much fentanyl is laced in the product, which leaves for a deadly game of Russian Roulette,” stated Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Angel M. Melendez in the report.

One of the sealed bricks was labeled with the face of notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar—also known as the “King of Cocaine.” In the picture, two packages can be seen bearing the name of “Pablo” and “Escobar,” like corrupted luck charms. Others were labeled with pictures of planes, reading “AVION” (Spanish for plane).

Drug seizure
Drug seizure in Harlem, New York, on March 28, 2019. (DEA)

In the home, investigators found $200,000 and estimated the cost of the drugs seized between $10.5 million and $20 million on the black market. The amount seized is close to one-third of the largest fentanyl bust in the country; nearly 254 pounds were seized at the border in January.

Overdoses Rising in New York City

The CDC reported a 55 percent increase in the rate of fatal drug overdose from 2015 to 2017 in New York City, the highest number recorded since 2000. And the dramatic increase was attributed to fentanyl.

Opioid-Ohio border security cartels
Local police, the fire department, and deputy sheriffs help a man who is overdosing in Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 3, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Also in the report: almost a 3,000 percent increase was seen in the rate of fentanyl-related overdose deaths from 2014 to 2017. From 2000 to 2014, 10,673 fatal overdoses were registered—73 percent involved an opioid.

So where is the fentanyl coming from? While most drugs are seized at the southern border by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Drug Enforcement Administration (pdf) has reported that most illegal fentanyl comes from China. President Donald Trump and politicians have been pushing for legislation to combat the flow of Chinese fentanyl.

Under pressure from President Trump, China declared on April 1 that it would ban all forms of fentanyl, adding it to their list of controlled substances, according to The Associated Press.