There's no business like snow business — not in Times Square, where over 100 pounds of cocaine were seized in a dramatic drug gang takedown, officials said today.
The drugs were recovered from three rolling suitcases that were wheeled out of the Crowne Plaza Hotel like so much tourist luggage, with cops swooping in from their surveillance posts to bust six accused coke traffickers who'd turned the neighborhood into the Great White Way, authorities said.
The drugs, seized on Oct. 25, totaled 48 kilos and would have been worth $5 million on the street, officials estimated.
The six alleged traffickers have been indicted on conspiracy and drug possession, according to Bridget Brennan, the city's Special Narcotics Prosecutor, and Joseph D'Amico, Superintendent of the state police, whose offices collaborated on the investigation.
State cops conducting surveillance at the hotel watched as at shortly after 6 p.m. Fernando Alvarado, 23, of The Bronx, left the hotel with a suitcase — later discovered to be holding 30 pounds of coke -- and placed it in the trunk of a waiting silver BMW, officials said.
Alvarado jumped into the passenger seat and the car sped off north, only to be stopped near 50th Street and Sixth Avenue. Alvarado and the driver, Gerinerdo Hernandez, 34, of The Bronx, were busted on the spot.
A short time later, a second man left the hotel, Luis Cuevas-Muniz, 25, of Tao Baja, Puerto Rico, also carrying a suitcase — this one holding some eight pounds of cocaine, cops said.
Cops watched as Cuevas-Muniz jumped into a waiting livery cab with his suitcase and rode just one block before the cab stopped and he got out again — leaving the eight pounds of coke in the cab — and walked back to the hotel, cops said.
As some cops followed the cab and its suitcase back at the hotel, Cuevas-Muniz was next seen back inside the hotel concourse with yet a third suitcase, this one holding a whopping 66 pounds of coke, cops said.
Investigators quickly grabbed two NYPD officers who happened to be nearby and were able to arrest Cuevas-Muniz where he stood.
But a man Cuevas-Muniz was talking to bolted, and one state police investigator chased him through the theater district and east toward Rockefeller Center, where he was lost in the holiday decorations-gazing crowds, according to a law enforcement source.
Meanwhile, the livery cab was pulled over at 57th Street and Eighth Avenue, and the driver, Roberto Alvarez, 37, of The Bronx, was also arrested.
Finally, back at the Crowne Plaza, more state cops also stormed the hotel room where the alleged traffickers had been staying and arrested two more defendants from inside the room: Kaleb Altiery-Vazquez, 23, of Winston Salem, NC, and Juan Alverio-Ruiz, 50, of Tao Baja.
In the room cops recovered plastic wrappings used to cover kilos of narcotics, multiple plane tickets in the defendants' names and cell phones, cops said.
The plane tickets showed that members of the group had travelled from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to White Plains, NY, with a stop in Orlando, Fla, cops said.
Four of the defendants, including Cuevas-Muniz, pleaded not guilty today before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Charles Solomon, who ordered they be held without bail and set Dec. 17 as their next appearance date.
Republished with permission of The New York Post.