By NATHAN DUKE
A 36-year-old Flushing man and 14 others who allegedly operated a methamphetamine distribution organization out of illegal gambling parlors in Flushing have been arrested, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York said.
Anthony “Ant” Pineda, 36, the alleged leader of the organization, was arraigned on July 19 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak and ordered detained pending trial. An additional 14 defendants—including Queens’ Yunfeng Gao, 33; Ivan Kaleda, 38; Ting Li, 30; Yuan Li, 34; Guanghua Shen, 45; Jin Wang, 33; Joung Hwa Yun, 40; Lu Zhai, 30; Nan Zhang, 32; Min Li, 40; David Haghighy, 33; Steven Torres, 28; Brooklyn’s Si En Li, 45; and San Francisco’s Marco Rescino, 22—were also arrested in the bust.
“Drug dealers are trying to turn New York into the next methamphetamine wasteland,” said James Donoghue, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “The Eastern District will work tirelessly with our partners on long-term investigations such as this to prosecute those who poison our communities with this highly addictive and dangerous drug.”
According to the indictments, court documents and statements made in court, Pineda allegedly led a meth distribution organization from gambling parlors in Flushing. He allegedly obtained large quantities of meth in California and transported the drugs to New York for wholesale and retail distribution.
Pineda allegedly protected the operation with threats and violence. During one instance, he allegedly threatened a competing gambling-parlor owner with a gun and referred to a “high-voltage cattle prod” that a co-conspirator could use to collect a debt. At the time of his arrest, law enforcement officers allegedly removed a pound of methamphetamine and approximately $27,000 in cash.
Charges against the defendants include possession of and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, firearms trafficking, operating an illegal gambling parlor, extortion and money laundering.