Cooking More Than Pizza: Over 5 Kilos of Drugs Found in a U.S. Pizzeria

Published: 26 October 2023

New-York Pizzeria DrugsDuring the operation, drugs such as cocaine, crack, fentanyl, oxycodone, and heroin were seized. (Photo: DEA, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

Law enforcement officials in New York have apprehended three individuals suspected of being associated with a drug trafficking organization that was operating from a pizzeria in the Bronx. During their operation, they seized various drugs estimated to be worth around US$4 million.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), in collaboration with federal, state, and local authorities, conducted surveillance on Guadencio Rosendo Perez and Zulema Cardenas Espinoza, two of the detainees. The surveillance team observed these individuals removing a heavy-looking bag from the back of a vehicle and taking it into the Mexzzarella Pizza restaurant.

Approximately two hours later, the surveillance team noticed Alexander Francisco Samboy, the third detainee, entering the pizzeria with an apparently empty backpack. Shortly after, he left the establishment with a backpack of the same type and color, which appeared to be heavily loaded.

Samboy then got into a vehicle, and a mobile surveillance unit subsequently pulled him over at a stop. It was during this stop that officers discovered five kilograms of what they suspected to be cocaine.

Simultaneously, at the pizzeria, agents and task force officers apprehended Perez and Espinoza. Inside the restaurant, they discovered 42 kilograms of suspected cocaine, one kilogram of heroin/fentanyl, 1,000 sachets of suspected oxycodone and fentanyl, significant quantities of cocaine in rock form, a kilo press, around $40,000 in cash, and 100 vials of suspected crack cocaine. According to the report, the vials were stored near the pizza counter, possibly for easy sale or to provide samples to customers. Agents also recovered a yellow powdery substance on the first floor.

"This highly profitable Bronx-based narcotics operation appeared to function as a wholesaler and distributor of cocaine and fentanyl-laced products and was disguised as an 'inexpensive' Mexican pizza establishment. Investigators recovered cocaine, crack, and fentanyl in various forms, including bags, vials, and kilo-sized portions from Mexzzarella in the Soundview section,” Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan stated. “Our office will continue to collaborate with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to curb the distribution of lethal drugs that contributed to a record-high number of fatalities in our city last year."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, an estimated 110,757 people in the United States died of drug overdoses and poisonings in 2022. Nearly 70 percent of those deaths were caused by synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Only in New York, 3,026 people fatally overdosed in 2022, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.