Several area residents were indicted Tuesday as part of an effort by federal and local law enforcement officials to end a heroin distribution ring that stretched from Queens to Suffolk County.
According to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, those indicted included Tina Catrini (alias Tina Bonghi), 29, of Farmingville; Matthew Catrini, 24, of Farmingville; Josephine (Josephina) Javis, 50, of West Islip; Ronald (Pops) Stern, 68, of Blue Point; and Corey Stern, 37, of Blue Point.
The five local residents were among 20 members of the Perez Organization who were indicted, law enforcement officials said, noting the organization is an alleged drug trafficking ring with conspiracy to distribute heroin. The defendants were arrested on Tuesday and were arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge Gary R. Brown at the United States Courthouse in Central Islip.
“The charges and arrests announced today have ended the activities of an alleged heroin distribution organization whose members were drawn from a variety of backgrounds but were united by common cause — profiting personally while seriously endangering the lives of so many residents in our communities,” said Loretta E. Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
“As alleged in the indictment, the Perez Organization was responsible for a significant portion of the heroin distributed on Long Island,” said Janice K. Fedarcyk, FBI Assistant Director in Charge. “Heroin use among suburban teens is alarmingly popular, and today’s heroin is more potent and less expensive than ever. A potentially lethal dose can be purchased for about the cost of a pack of cigarettes or a six-pack of beer."
According to the indictment and a detention letter filed by the government, the organization’s leadership was centralized in Woodhaven, Queens, with distribution networks in Nassau and Suffolk counties and a storage facility in Brooklyn. The organization’s members were allegedly responsible for distributing more than 20 kilograms of heroin, with a street value of at least $2.75 million, to drug dealers in Long Island and Queens during the past nine months.
During the course of the investigation, law enforcement agents monitored hundreds of hours of court-ordered wiretaps, which documented numerous purchases and sales of heroin by the defendants, and conducted numerous controlled purchases of heroin, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
During the investigation, more than 5,400 individual doses of heroin were recovered from members of the Perez Organization, which were otherwise destined to reach the streets of local communities. The agents also executed search warrants at four heroin storage locations in Queens, Brooklyn, and Roosevelt, New York, resulting in the seizure of, among other things, heroin with a street value of more than $30,000 and thousands of dollars in cash, law enforcement officials said.
The indictment and arrests are the product of a nine-month joint investigation (“Operation County Connection”) by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Nassau County Police Department (NCPD), with assistance from the Suffolk County Police Department, the New York City Police Department, and the U.S. Marshals Service, Eastern District of New York. The investigation was initiated, in part, in response to the increased rate of heroin use on Long Island.