Police, FBI Score Nation’s Biggest Heroin Bust
NEW YORK (AP) _ Police and FBI agents confiscated 800 pounds of heroin Tuesday - enough to supply nearly 100,000 addicts for a year - in what the assistant FBI director said was the biggest such bust in U.S. history.
Officials said the raid in Queens smashed a major Southeast Asian drug ring that smuggled heroin into the country inside hollow rubber wheels. The raid resulted in 17 arrests and netted $3 million in cash, officials said.
The street value of the heroin, said to be 90 percent pure, was estimated at more than $1 billion by Assistant FBI Director James M. Fox during a news conference.
The amount ″would supply 40 to 50 percent of all the heroin needed for some 200,000 addicts on an annual basis in New York City,″ said U.S. Attorney Andrew Maloney.
″That makes this the largest heroin seizure ever in the United States,″ Fox said.
Maloney, whose office had prosecuted some of the famous ″French Connection″ heroin cases, said ″800 pounds of heroin is unheard of.″
″The largest ″French Connection″ type of case that I’m aware of is about 200 pounds back in 1971, but nothing of this scope,″ Maloney said.
Thirty-one people from New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Singapore, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver were named in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.
Of those, 14 were already jailed in Detroit, Buffalo, Toronto and Hong Kong, and the 17 others were arrested in the city in raids Monday night and Tuesday.
Fourteen more suspected ring members will soon be named, Maloney said.
The 18-month investigation, Operation White Mare, sought to identify major Chinese heroin networks operating in the metropolitan area.
Since 1985, the supply of heroin from Asia has increased, and Asian drug rings have supplanted heroin operations run by traditional American organized crime families, Maloney said.
The investigation identified Fok Leung Woo, also known as Peter Woo, a longtime resident and businessman in Chinatown, as the ring’s leader.
″Woo was not so much the head of an operation ... as he was a broker, an entreprenuer who brought people together,″ Fox said.
Fox would not specifically say how long the ring had been operating or how much money it grossed.
The probe tracked the heroin from the Golden Triangle to Hong Kong, where it was packed inside small rubber tires designed for carts. Boxes boxes of tires were smuggled into Los Angeles and trucked to New York, the FBI official said.
When more than 100 police and FBI agents raided three locations in Queens, they found 264 boxes of tires. About half of the boxes contained heroin, usually about 1 1/2 pounds per tire, Fox said.
‴Our case, ‘White Mare’ is going to become a nightmare for the defendants,″ Maloney said.