NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Authorities say they have seized nearly nine pounds of cocaine in packages wrapped in pink Minnie Mouse gift paper in a bust on a drug trafficking ring in Brooklyn.
Prosecutors say three men, including an MTA bus driver, were arrested.
Authorities say one of the alleged drug sales happened outside a nail salon in Mill Basin, where one of the suspects was seen taking a pink package out of his orange Dodge Challenger.
Investigators later seized $74,300 in cash and another pink package at the nearby home of one of the defendants.
“Brazen conduct, flashy cars and a soft spot for Minnie Mouse were the trademarks of the cocaine trafficking operation announced today,” said Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan.
Christopher Kelly, 51, of Brooklyn, Salvatore Capece, 63, of Effort, Pennsylvania, and Robert Woolridge, 38, an MTA bus driver who lives in the Bronx, were scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
All three have been charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and third degrees and criminally using drug paraphernalia in the second degree. Kelly and Capece also face charges of the criminal sale of a controlled substance in the first degree.
Authorities say Kelly and Capece were arrested June 19 while Woolridge was arrested the following week.
The arrests resulted from the alleged sale of two kilograms (4.5 pounds) of cocaine for nearly $74,300 outside a nail salon located on Avenue T in Mill Basin, where Kelly worked as a manager, prosecutors said.
At approximately 5 p.m. on June 19, prosecutors say agents and officers conducting surveillance outside the nail salon as part of an ongoing narcotics investigation allegedly observed Kelly get a package wrapped in pink Minnie Mouse gift wrap from the trunk of an orange Dodge Challenger registered to Capece.
Authorities say Kelly handed the package to Woolridge, who then gave Kelly a Burberry shopping bag. Authorities say Woolridge then drove off with the gift-wrapped package in an Audi.
According to prosecutors, agents and officers later saw Capece exit the nail salon that evening. At about 7:30 p.m., Capece and Kelly arrived together at Kelly’s home on Avenue T, several blocks from the nail salon. Authorities say Kelly carried what appeared to be the same Burberry shopping bag and a second package wrapped in pink Minnie Mouse gift wrap.
Agents obtained a search warrant for both the home and the Dodge Challenger. Upon entering the living room, law enforcement officials say they found the gift wrapped package had been partially opened, exposing two kilograms of suspected cocaine. The Burberry shopping bag was also in the living room and contained nearly $74,300 cash, authorities said. A search of the trunk of the Dodge Challenger yielded a kilo press often used in packaging narcotics, according to authorities.
Then shortly before 7 a.m. on June 28, prosecutors say agents stopped Woolridge in a vehicle near his Throgs Neck home as he was on his way to his job as an MTA bus driver. Woolridge allowed the agents to enter his home on East Tremont Avenue and retrieved a UPS bag from a kitchen cabinet. Prosecutors said inside the bag were two kilograms (4.5 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth up to $75,000, as well as scales and packaging materials.
Final laboratory test results on the narcotics are pending.
“One wouldn’t normally think Minnie Mouse gift wrap being associated with drugs, but in the case, that’s how these individuals allegedly chose to disguise the movement of cocaine,” said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI New York. “Using children’s gift wrap was certainly no way to outsmart law enforcement and now these alleged drug pushers are no longer dealing in Brooklyn.”
“These defendants were allegedly involved in the trafficking of large amounts of cocaine on our streets in broad daylight,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said. “Thanks to the work of our law enforcement partners at Special Narcotics, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the New York State Police they are now facing the consequences of their alleged actions.”