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65 Lbs. of Heroin Seized in Cortlandt Drug Bust

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A quiet, typically unassuming Westchester town was at the center of a federal investigation culminating in the seizure of more than 65 pounds of heroin shipped from Las Cruces, Mexico. On Thursday morning, two men were arrested when the shipment, estimated to value $2.3 million at wholesale, was found stowed away in the axle of a painted-over tractor-trailer parked in front of a home on a private wooded lot in Cortlandt, the latest development in a series of heroin-related arrests in the Hudson Valley region. Drug Enforcement Administration officials have since confirmed that the arrests of Fernando Quiles and Jorge Ayala (on felony charges including criminal possession of a controlled substance, conspiracy, and use of drug paraphernalia) are the result of a three-month wiretap investigation involving federal, state, and local agencies.

“Drug organizations look for nice residential areas that are quiet and won’t attract attention,” says Erin Mulvey, spokesperson for the DEA’s New York division. “It’s a double-edged sword: It’s a compliment saying that [Cortlandt] does not see much criminal activity, but it can also attract drug distributors.”

Authorities tracked the shipment as it crossed the Texas border and made its way to the New York City area, where Ayala and Quiles coordinated distribution of narcotics to their customer base. Due to intercepted phone calls between the two, investigators knew as of Aug. 13 that Quiles needed a place to park a “trailer for at least one day.” The following day, Quiles was recorded discussing “wholesale heroin prices,” according to authorities.

On Tuesday, investigators observed a tractor-trailer arrive at 4 Sassi Drive, a large single-family home, detach the trailer from the truck, and leave the property. Agents pulled Ayala over as he drove away from the property in a car, in which they found packaging materials, keys for 4 Sassi Drive, and a device for opening the trailer. Quiles was apprehended in the vicinity of the trailer.

The house itself had no furniture, only “drug packaging materials and narcotics ledger,” explained DEA Special Agent James J. Hunt in a press release, pointing to the fact that Quiles and Ayala rented the property for parking the trailer and stashing drugs. “No distribution would have taken place here,” confirms Mulvey. “Major drug distributors won’t distribute in these locations to avoid the attention of authorities or other traffickers. This was just a transit spot on the way to the city.”

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