U.S. News

New York drug bust nets 136 pounds of cocaine worth estimated $3 million

(Reuters) - Two men were arrested and nearly $3 million worth of cocaine was seized in New York City in what is being described as the biggest bust involving the drug in recent years as heroin abuse has surged, law enforcement authorities said on Saturday.

An undated handout picture released by the New York Special Narcotics Prosecutor's Office show 62 kilograms of cocaine (136 lbs.) seized by police in New York City December 17, 2015. REUTERS/New York Special Narcotics Prosecutor's Office/Handout via Reuters

Mark Soto and Xavier Herbert-Gumbs, face felony drug possession charges after authorities said they found a total of 136 pounds (61.7 kg) of cocaine in their vehicles in the Bronx, according to a statement by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor in New York.

“This is the largest cocaine seizure that our office has made in recent years,” said Kati Cornell, spokeswoman for the prosecutor. “Recently, we’ve seen a lot more large seizures of heroin, so this case is certainly unusual.”

Her office did not have information available as to when or how large the last major cocaine bust in New York was recorded. New York City police did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

According to the prosecutor’s statement, the men had transported the drugs from Massachusetts as part of a “major narcotics trafficking network” identified in an investigation by local law enforcement and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The statement did not explain the basis on which authorities estimated the value of the seizure at $3 million.

The men are charged with four counts each of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and third degrees. Bail was set for each defendant at $400,000.

On Thursday, police pulled over a vehicle in which Herbert-Gumbs, of Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, was the passenger and found 110 pounds of cocaine pressed into bricks bearing brand names, the statement said.

A short time later, officers found Soto, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, exiting a vehicle at an intersection, but were able to detain him and search the vehicle’s trunk, which was holding another 26 pounds of cocaine, the statement said.

The investigation also involved the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York Division, the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor and the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service.

In November, the U.S. Coast Guard and federal authorities announced a $748 million cocaine seizure after an investigation in the Eastern Pacific in what was called the most successful counternarcotics operation in the region since 2009.

Reporting by Karen Brooks in Dallas; editing by Frank McGurty and G Crosse