Nearly $20 million, most of it in neatly stacked $20 bills, has been seized here in what authorities said was the largest cash haul in the history of the war on drugs.
Eleven people, allegedly members of a powerful Colombian drug cartel that controls cocaine distribution in the metropolitan area, were arrested in the raid Thursday."It is the largest cash seizure in a drug case in the world," said Robert Stutman, head of the Drug Enforcement Agency's New York office, at a news conference held among dozens of ordinary brown boxes brimming with $20 bills.
"This is the result of people laying down $20 a shot" for cocaine, he said.
Stutman said $19 million in neatly stacked $20 bills and some $100 bills were found in boxes inside a passenger van at a Queens warehouse called Zoom Furniture.
An additional $630,000, three loaded submachine guns, a pistol and detailed business ledgers were seized after task force members executed search warrants at two private homes in Queens and on Long Island.
"The accounts showed they were doing about $1 million a day in cash," by selling cocaine throughout the city, Stutman said.
Authorities believe the money was heading out of the country to be laundered. The 10 men and one woman arrested were charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics, sai Ann Driscoll of the U.S. attorney's office.
Those arrested were all believed to be members of the powerful Cali drug cartel, which law enforcement authorities say controls cocaine distribution in the region.
Despite the magnitude of the haul, officials said it would barely cause a ripple in the cartel.