People tended to dismiss the local pizzeria as an innocent spot where families shared pies and chatted casually across chequered table cloths. But there was a sinister secret simmering under the surface of this seemingly innocent establishment. For authorities, the aroma of baking pizzas had mixed with the noisome menace of illicit substances. Three men have been charged in connection to a thriving drug ring, allegedly orchestrated out of a Bronx pizzeria — Mexzzarella Pizzeria, a startling reveal showcasing that pizza wasn’t the only item they were slinging.
Police arrested three men for allegedly operating a drug ring in a Bronx pizzeria across from a school. About 100 pounds of drugs, including cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and oxycodone, with an estimated $4 million street value, were seized by investigators. pic.twitter.com/MlQa1qaUDy
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) October 23, 2023
The three accused, Gaudencio Rosendo Perez, Zulema Cardenas Espinoza and Alexander Samboy, were alleged to have been running a full-blown drug-peddling operation, cleverly masked by the operations of their public-facing eatery — Mexzzarella Pizzeria. The location of this establishment, directly adjacent to a local elementary school, further punctuates the audacity of this illicit operation.
The scale and audacity of the operation were matched only by its product. The authorities, acting on credible information, rummaged through the establishment and seized an alarming collection of drugs. The haul, which comprised over 100 pounds of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, and other illegal substances, weighs in with a robust street value, estimated to be in the vicinity of $4 million.
“A slice of vice” seemed to be the unofficial tag line for the Mexzzarella Pizzeria, where drug deals reportedly took place right near the pizza counter. Authorities further reported that large amounts of crack cocaine, cocooned in vials, were strategically stored for convenience of sale.
This saga of illicit dealings reached its climax on October 19. Law enforcement orchestrated a strategic takedown of the operation, saturating the pizzeria with a formidable presence. Visible movements by the accused trio, peppered with the exchange of bags and backpacks, solidified authorities’ suspicions. The event that catalyzed action was Samboy’s exit in a shiny silver Subaru Impreza with Connecticut plates.
The traffic stop, a culmination of careful surveillance and coordination, yielded a startling discovery — five kilos of cocaine, swaddled in the trusty disguise of black tape, neatly labeled as “R2.” This find prompted officers to make the arrests inside the pizzeria.
The basement of the establishment revealed an uglier truth — a kilo press, alongside a hearty $40,000 in cash haul.
In a statement, NYC Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan called out the operation, labeling it as a ‘wholesaler and distributor’ of cocaine and fentanyl laced products — a true affront to the young lives tragically lost to the drug crisis and a threat to the very fabric of our society.
The accused men now face the music, with charges of operating as a major trafficker and criminal possession of a controlled substance. Post their arraignment, Perez finds himself (aptly) remanded, while the other two have been set bail at $150,000.
This shattering revelation exposes the elaborate drug-peddling operation hidden beneath the veneer of a friendly pizzeria, a mute spectator to the woes of the drug trade that has claimed countless lives. While the bust is a significant victory for law enforcement, it underscores the urgency of addressing the drug crisis that has claimed upwards of 111,000 lives nationwide in 2022, with the ground zero, New York City, reporting over 3,000 overdoses and deaths in that period.
As we contemplate this revelation, the alliance between law enforcement entities — the DEA, NYPD, New York State Police, the New York City Office of the Special Narcotic Prosecutor and Rockland County District Attorney’s Office — should be lauded for their effective action. This bust not only shows the disastrous effects of unbridled drug trafficking in our communities, but it also emphasizes the power of united enforcement bodies working diligently toward the greater goal of community safety and societal order.
In war against drugs, the fight often begins in our own neighborhoods. Authority’s sweep of this ‘innocent’ pizza joint confirms that statement, turning another page in the ongoing battle against drug trafficking. As we contemplate this fresh victory, let it not blind us to the dire necessity of continuous vigilance and staunch resolve against the creeping dangers of forbidden substances. As we mop up the aftermath of this bust, we see a daunting but inevitable truth: the fight rages on. The order may seem restored, the dealers apprehended, but we must not rest. For our sake, and for those we have lost, the pizza must not cool.