A handful of people accused of operating a citywide New York drug delivery service were arrested by federal authorities on Wednesday, supposedly in connection with HQ Trivia founder Colin Kroll’s fatal overdose last December.
Six alleged members of “Mike’s Candyshop,” an illicit drug delivery operation, which authorities claim “distributed numerous kilograms of heroin and cocaine” to customers across Manhattan and Brooklyn, were taken into custody this week, according to an indictment obtained by Oxygen.com.
Ariel Tavarez, 38, Gregoris Martinez, 34, Christian Baez, 33, Luis Meson, 31, Joiffrey Urena, 27, and Kevin Grullon, 25, were each charged with one count of conspiring to distribute narcotics.
“This illicit enterprise allegedly allowed people to order heroin and cocaine to their doorstep simply by calling the business phone number with the same convenience as if they were ordering a pizza,” said Homeland Security Investigations special agent Peter C. Fitzhugh in a prepared statement.
One overdose death — presumably Kroll’s — is tied to Mike’s Candyshop, authorities said. In February, a medical examiner ruled that Kroll’s death was triggered by acute intoxication from fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine, according to the Daily Beast.
Investigators said after retrieving the victim's cellphone from his apartment, they discovered text messages that allegedly showed he ordered narcotics from the drug delivery service a day before fatally overdosing, according to the indictment against the accused drug dealers. In those messages, authorities claim the man communicated in code with Candyshop dispatchers. He supposedly ordered a “shirt,” — code for a vial of cocaine — and a “book,” which meant "ten glassines of heroin."
Detectives also found “empty vials with colored tops, and a glassine next to a powder mixture containing, among other substances, heroin and cocaine,” the indictment described.
The packaging of the drugs found in the victim's apartment were consistent with how Mike’s Candyshop typically branded their products, officials also stated.
“Anyone who deals in illegal narcotics must understand that the nation’s best investigators will stop at nothing to fight crime and keep safe all the people we serve,” New York Police Department commissioner James P. O’Neill in a statement to the media.
The group has allegedly been operating on a "daily basis" since at least January 2017.
Federal agents believe Tavarez is the dial-for-drugs operation’s ringleader — and “the primary operator of the Candyshop number.” The 38-year-old, who supposedly went by the alias “Mike,” is accused of acting as the drug delivery service’s dispatcher, fielding customer calls and relaying orders to drug runners. Officials claim Tavarez also fueled stash houses in New York with narcotics drove in from Pennsylvania, where couriers would pick up orders and drop off cash.
The Candyshop allegedly spoke to customers using a codified language and only served those who had been given the drug delivery service’s number by an existing customer.
“Tavarez instructed members of [Mike’s Candyshop] on where and how to access the stash locations to obtain drugs for distribution and where to leave the cash proceeds from the sales,” an indictment against the six defendents stated.
Kroll first came to prominence as a tech executive after co-founding the now-defunct video app Vine, which was acquired by Twitter in 2012. In 2017, he launched Trivia HQ with fellow tech entrepreneur Rus Yusapov.
“It's with deep sadness that we say goodbye,” Trivia HQ tweeted in a statement following Kroll’s death. “Our thoughts go out to his family, friends and loved ones during this incredibly difficult time.”
Tavarez, Martinez, Baez, Meson, Urena, and Grullon could face a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice told Oxygen.com that no court date has been scheduled yet.
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