NEWARK, N.J. – Three New York men have been charged in connection with a conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine in New Jersey from locations in Manhattan, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced today.
Juan Carlos Merced Moreno, aka “Samuel,” 43; Antonio Hidalgo, aka “Cacona,” 43, and Jose Miguel Abreu, aka “Pelu,” 26, all from Manhattan, are charged by complaint with one count of conspiracy to distribute 400 grams or more of suspected fentanyl, 500 grams or more of suspected methamphetamine, and 500 grams or more of suspected cocaine. Merced Moreno appeared by videoconference today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor and was detained. Hidalgo is in custody on other charges and Abreu is at large.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
In February 2019, law enforcement officials began investigating a drug trafficking organization based in Hudson County, New Jersey, and intercepted telephone calls made by its members. Officials learned of a fentanyl pill press based being operated by Moreno, Hidalgo and Abreu in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. Based on intercepted telephone calls and surveillance between November 2020 and January 2021, law enforcement officials learned the defendants supplied fentanyl pills to the New Jersey drug trafficking organization, which subsequently distributed them throughout New Jersey. Law enforcement believes that the three defendants supplied approximately at least 25,000 fentanyl pills to the New Jersey organization.
Law enforcement officials began to intercept telephone calls made and received by Moreno and Hidalgo, as well as telephone calls between the two men and Abreu, and identified various residences and stash locations in Manhattan associated with the DTO-NY. On Jan. 29, 2021, law enforcement officials executed search warrants on Moreno’s residence, Hidalgo’s residence, Abreu’s residence and other stash and manufacturing locations. They recovered: 5.4 kilograms of a suspected combination of methamphetamine and fentanyl; 1.7 kilograms of suspected methamphetamine in a crystalized rock form; 1.6 kilograms of suspected methamphetamine pills; 1.5 kilograms of suspected fentanyl pills; 1.3 kilograms of suspected cocaine; 788 grams of suspected fentanyl in brick form; two pill presses; four scales; and $11,180. The seized narcotics have an estimated street value of $700,000.
The drug distribution conspiracy charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum potential penalty of life in prison, and a maximum $10 million fine.
Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations, New York City Airport Border Enforcement Security Taskforce, under the direction of Peter C. Fitzhugh; special agents from U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations – Newark, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jason J. Molina; members of the New York Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Dermot F. Shea; and investigators and assistant prosecutors from the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez, with the investigation leading to the charges and arrests.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Levin of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Violent Crimes Unit in Newark.
The charges and allegations against the defendants are merely accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.