By Karen Brooks
(Reuters) – Two men were arrested & 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.
Mark Soto & 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 & the U.S. Immigration & 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 & 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 & 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, yet were able to detain him & search the vehicle's trunk, which was holding another 26 pounds of cocaine, the statement said.
The investigation moreover involved the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's New York Division, the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor & the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service.
In November, the U.S. Coast Guard & 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 & G Crosse)
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