Upper West Side Apartment Was Center of Multi-State Drug Ring, Police Say

472 Columbus Avenue.

An apartment at 472 Columbus Avenue off of 83rd Street served as the home base for a cocaine ring, police say. Gerardo Gonzalez was seen selling cocaine to people with license plates from several states, meeting them in the street near the apartment, police said. The men have been arrested and were set to be indicted on Thursday.

Police sent a release that included details of the charges:

The investigation centered on GERARDO GONZALEZ, an alleged cocaine distributor who operated from an apartment at 472 Columbus Avenue in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Through a variety of investigative tools, including wiretaps and physical surveillance, agents and investigators identified and charged five other individuals associated with GONZALEZ’s drug network.

Among those charged are alleged drug dealers ERIC ESPINAL, of Fordham Manor in the Bronx, SOCRATES SANTANA, of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, VANCE HALL, of Pittsburgh, and JOSE MARTINEZ, of Jersey City, and alleged money launderer XIONGBIN ZHAO, of Brooklyn.

The investigation revealed that GONZALEZ met with drug customers and suppliers in the vicinity of the Columbus Avenue apartment and conducted alleged narcotics transactions on the street and inside vehicles. Agents and investigators observed GONZALEZ hand off bags of suspected narcotics to customers in vehicles bearing out of state license plates from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. GONZALEZ was also observed meeting with MARTINEZ, an alleged cocaine supplier, in the Upper West Side in order to purchase kilogram quantities of cocaine.

As alleged in the indictment, GONZALEZ and his co-defendants discussed quantities and prices of narcotics for sale in phone conversations. They are estimated to have sold up to 10 kilograms of cocaine per week, charging approximately $30,000 per kilogram.

In order to conceal the illicit nature of his money, GONZALEZ met ZHAO in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn on at least two occasions in order to deliver large quantities of cash. Over the course of two meetings in December of 2017 and January of 2018, ZHAO allegedly received more than $350,000 cash from GONZALEZ. On January 3, 2018, agents and investigators observed GONZALEZ meet with ZHAO outside 1353 76th Street in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn and stopped ZHAO’s vehicle following the meeting. Agents recovered a duffle bag containing over $180,000 cash.

As detailed in the indictment, GONZALEZ appeared to be conscious of law enforcement surveillance. On January 31, 2018, in a phone call with ESPINAL, GONZALEZ said he believed he saw surveillance by the “FBI or DEA.”

A court authorized search of GONZALEZ’s apartment at 472 Columbus Avenue, Apt. 2C, on March 6, 2018 yielded two kilograms of cocaine imprinted with a crown (more than four pounds), additional bags of cocaine, and over 30 grams of heroin mixed with methamphetamine, xylazine (an animal tranquilizer) and multiple non-controlled substances. Also recovered were $60,000 cash, a money counter and drug packaging equipment. A second court authorized search that same day at the residence of ESPINAL, 2985 Botanical Square, Apt. 3J, in the Bronx, yielded a pound of cocaine, four pounds of marijuana and $30,000 cash.

NEWS | 31 comments | permalink
    1. Sid says:

      If you’re going to deal cocaine, you probably shouldn’t do it a block and a half away from a police precinct.

      • Che says:

        I always expect to see at least one police vehicle parked on that block. It’s a police neighborhood. Hel-LO!

      • Leon says:

        And across the street from an elementary school. Do they still increase penalties in a drug free school zone? I hope so.

      • Christine E says:

        Or across the street from a school. Aren’t there higher penalties for this?

    2. Mark Moore says:

      Oh man, all those trips down the Financial District and I could have gotten it right down the block instead.

      • Steve in Manhattan says:

        That’s the right attitude – we should always patronize local small businesses.

        And we looked at an apartment about a year ago in that building, but first floor and somewhat exposed. Glad we decided to buy where we already lived – 74th and Amsterdam. Will advise on the coke situation when I find out.

    3. Scott says:

      Not surprising. That side street (the one with all the rental car companies) always seems particularly shady.

    4. dannyboy says:

      “over 30 grams of heroin mixed with methamphetamine, xylazine (an animal tranquilizer)…”

      I bet the xylazine was stolen. Vets need that to administer to animals in their practice.

      What kind of animal steals from helpless animals?

    5. BL says:

      83rd between Columbus and Amsterdam and is the sketchiest block on the UWS. None of this is surprising. Rent a car…and some drugs.

      • Carlos says:

        I agree that it isn’t a great block and it is definitely very different from the rest of the neighborhood but the big church, and to a lesser extent the gym, have helped to improve the block. One would think the firehouse would also help, though the firemen don’t seem to have a very visible presence. And there are all of the rumors about the garage door on the south side about half way down…

    6. Eln says:

      Dont they needs a way to launder so much dough? This operation sounds like something out of Jennifer Lopez’ Shades of Blue!

    7. Liz says:

      So, is the apartment becoming available for rent? 🙂

    8. Pedestrian says:

      Talk about UPPER West Side.

      Not really a laughing matter, I know. This is dangerous.

    9. michael says:

      And across the street from a middle school… This one is gonna hurt.

    10. drew says:

      Best worry about the peoples lives they destroy and kill.

    11. Jimbo says:

      The dealers are all over the 80s. Have been for decades. More and more sketchy guys in cars with tinted windows and out of state plates pulled over all over the place. There was just a big bust on CPW last year. This won’t be the last of it.

      • dannyboy says:

        Happened to me!

        I’m sitting in my car, double-parked waiting for a spot.

        A guy gets in and says: “I got $50, give me something good”.

        I gave him something!!!

    12. BrendaT says:

      Aaaaaaaand another local small business closes 🙁

    13. deathtodruglords says:

      I like how China deals with drugs.

    14. Tom says:

      At least it wasn’t a nail salon!!

    15. michael says:

      The block is one of the most undesirable on the UWS. You might think with a school, a post office, a top-tier fire house, a gym, a large church, a HOT (Kosher) restaurant and Jerry Seinfeld’s reported garage that the street would desirable, nevertheless clean, but it’s disgusting. I hate to blame a truly beloved community organization, but the southern side housing owned and operated by the church need some attention (and clean-up).

    16. AC says:

      A few things about West 83 st (between Columbus and Amsterdam):
      Back in 70s/80s the block was turf to a gang called The Mosquitos; it was a rough block and the firehouse did not want to be part of the neighborhood. To this day, even though the street has improved tremendously, the firehouse still keeps there doors down most of the time.
      The garage at Bldg. No. 138 is a subterranean garage (three floors deep) and is owned by Seinfeld. He custom-built the place back in 2000-2001 to house his car collection.


    17. Legacy American says:

      Meanwhile, alcohol, which destroys how many lives every year?, remains not only perfectly /legal/, not only aggressively /advertised/ but even socially promoted.

      (And I dare not so much as /mention/ certain inordinately disease-spreading {ahem} intimate practices that have become downright sacralized…)