Law enforcement officials say they've broken up a major heroin ring that has operated throughout Long Island, arresting 20 members Tuesday.
Among those busted were a woman who allegedly sold the drug in the parking lot of restaurant in Massapequa and a retired Suffolk County Marine Bureau officer, according to Loretta Lynch, the United States Attorney from the Eastern District of New York.
One of the defendants, Leonardo Lopez, is married to a New York City police officer, a source with knowledge of the investigation said.
The members of the ring were arrested in a sweep early Tuesday morning, prosecutors said.
The group, known as the Perez organization, was allegedly led by 26-year-old Jose Perez, also known as "Jay" Ule," and "Fat Boy."
Their leadership was located in the Woodhaven section of Queens, but they had a distribution network throughout Nassau and Suffolk Counties, prosecutors said. They also used a storage facility in Brooklyn.
The 20 defendants allegedly distributed more than 20 kilograms of heroin with a street value of at least $2.75 million to drug dealers in Queens and on Long Island over the past nine months.
Among those arrested was Dana Sollecito, 23, who allegedly sold the drug in the parking lot of the Corner Galley.
Gerry Stanbrough, who is a co-owner of the Merrick Road eatery, insisted he had no idea anything was going on. "I haven't talked to anyone," he said. "I haven't talked to the FBI, the U.S. attorney or police. I only heard about this when the news media came at noon."
Stanbrough said media reports that Sollecito was related to the restaurant's owners are not true, saying she's the daughter of a former owner who has passed away.
But she has been an employee at the Corner Galley for several months, according to Stanbrough.
"I'm shocked, I can't believe it, it's inconceivable to me that his could happen. She's a nice kid, she really is," he said.
The restaurant owner said Sollecito will likely be fired, once she gets out of jail.
Retired Suffolk Marine Bureau officer Roland Stern, 68, and his daughter Corey, 37 were also arrested in the sweep, as were Tina Catrini, 29, and her husband Matthew, 24. Kathryn Papas, 21, a college student was also busted.
The arrests came after a nine month investigation in which more than 5,400 individual doses of heroin were recovered. Searches excuted in Queens, Brooklyn and Roosevelt resulted in the seizure of more than $30,000 worth of heroin and thousands of dollars in cash, prosecutors said.
The investigation called "Operation County Connection" was handled by the FBI, the Nassau Police Department and the NYPD with assistance from Suffolk Police and the US Marshals service in the Eastern District of New York.
The defendants were charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.