Tomato Box Heroin Smuggling

New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor's Office

Men Hauled Heroin From Chicago To New York In Tomato Boxes, Prosecutors Say

June 07, 2018 - 2:56 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Two men stood charged Thursday in a scheme to smuggle heroin from Chicago to New York City inside tomato boxes.

Abel Abad and David Collazo were set to be arraigned Thursday before Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Abraham Clott, according to the New York City Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor.

They are charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, and Abad is also charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument.

The defendants were arrested on May 1, after agents recovered 10 kilograms – or more than 22 pounds – of heroin in New York City and Fort Lee, New Jersey, prosecutors said.

Agents tracked the pair as they drove through New Jersey in two separate vehicles, prosecutors said. Abad was in a 2007 Dodge Caliber with Illinois license plates, Collazo in a rented U-Haul van with Arizona license plates, prosecutors said.

The vehicles both stopped at a Best Western hotel on Route 4 in New Jersey, and the men both entered a second-floor hotel room, prosecutors said. Less than an hour later, they left the hotel with a cardboard box, prosecutors said.

Agents followed the men as the men both got into the Dodge and headed over the George Washington Bridge into Upper Manhattan, prosecutors said. They stopped the vehicle near the Henry Hudson Parkway and 158th Street, where they found a cardboard box in the back seat and recovered a bag with 2 kilograms of heroin, prosecutors said.

Abad was had a forged driver’s license with a false name on it, prosecutors said.

After the arrests, agents and investigators returned to the Best Western in Fort Lee with a New York State police K-9 unit. The drug-sniffing dog alerted police to narcotics in the U-Haul, which remained parked near the hotel, prosecutors said.

Agents found several boxes of raw tomatoes in the van – but the tomatoes were not all there was, prosecutors said. The boxes had false bottoms, and about 8 kilograms – or nearly 18 pounds – of heroin were found below the tomatoes, prosecutors said.

Tomato Box Heroin Smuggling
New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor's Office

Investigators learned that the heroin was destined for a customer in the Bronx, prosecutors said. The load of narcotics had been packed into the tomato boxes in Chicago before the men headed east, prosecutors said.

Additional intelligence led police to seize multiple kilograms of heroin and cocaine in Chicago, prosecutors said. The Drug Enforcement Administration estimated the street value of the more than 22 pounds of heroin recovered in New York City and Fort Lee to be over $3 million.