NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Authorities say they have dismantled a family-run heroin ring that used cereal boxes to conceal the drugs, which were sold to distributors that included a Manhattan court employee and a Staten Island man studying to become a drug addiction counselor.

Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson announced Thursday that 25 people are charged in the 368-count indictment.

Thompson said the operation, which was run out of a Williamsburg apartment, netted about $1.5 million last year.

The alleged ringleader, 25-year-old Josie Tavera, got his family into the act, authorities said.

“His mother helped launder the proceeds that they gained from selling this heroin,” Thompson told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “And his sister, Sheila, helped bag and transport some of their heroin.”

Tavera’s brother and two cousins were also among those charged.

“I think it’s extraordinary that a mother and her grown children would come together to spread poison in the streets of our city,” said Thompson.

But there were other key players. In Staten Island, Jason Collazo was a court employee who worked with people doing community service and Michael Mineo was applying to become a drug counselor, CBS2’s Sonia Rincon reported.

Thompson said they were supposed to be part of the solution, not the problem.

“But instead, allegedly distributed heroin on Staten Island, which has a burgeoning heroin problem,” the DA said.

Thompson said the ring supplied more than a dozen distributors and the group sold about 25,000 packs of heroin each month.

Prosecutors display evidence collected in a Brooklyn heroin investigation, in which the drug was allegedly hidden in cereal boxes. (Credit: Sonia Rincon/1010 WINS)

Prosecutors display evidence collected in a Brooklyn heroin investigation, in which the drug was allegedly hidden in cereal boxes. (Credit: Sonia Rincon/1010 WINS)

It went by the street names “Knockout,” “Killing Time” and “Scorpion,” which had some serious effects — “shock, constriction of the throat,” Thompson said.

Sellers were caught on wire tap joking about the swollen lips and eyes users got from shooting Scorpion.

“I don’t think they’re laughing now,” the DA said. “I think that what they were doing, they felt comfortable enough. They didn’t know that we were listening.”

Neighbors near Tavera’s home said they recognized their pictures, but never suspected a thing.

“For me, it’s a nice family. I never saw something wrong, you know?” said super Jasmani Santillan.

While most of the heroin allegedly came through Tavera’s building, authorities said they’ve only gotten as high up in the distribution chain as Tavera. Where all that heroin came from is still under investigation, Rincon reported.

All of the defendants are charged with second-degree conspiracy, which carries a prison sentence of up to 25 years. They are variously charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a controlled substance and money laundering.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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